In preparation for Sabbatical, I recently acquired a book of daily prayers inspired by our Celtic Christian ancestors. The book contains the spiritual disciplines of the Northumbrian Community, a group of contemporary Christians in Northern England and beyond, who, though scattered, commit to shared habits of prayer and hospitality. Periodically, they reconvene near Lindisfarne, a tiny island that has housed Christian communities since the 7th century when the Irish monk Aidan traveled from Iona and opened a monastery.
Traveling together toward family during the Thanksgiving holidays, Giulianna read aloud to me the reflections of our Northumbrian brothers and sisters on Advent, that period of preparation the Church enters into as we await the birth of Jesus at Christmas. Our preparations for Christmas can be so easily consumed by event-planning, we typically forget the necessities of spiritual preparation. As you prepare to welcome the Christ-child, I commend to you the words of the Northumbria community:
It is said that the door to the stable where the Christ-child has been born is very low – and only those who kneel find access. Being ready for Christmas should mean that our thoughts are focused not just on letters, cards, and presents, but on repentance, humbling, and interior “housecleaning.” John the Baptist warned his hearers to prepare a way for the Lord – to make a clear and level pathway. This involves removing any boulders that stand in the way, and filling in any potholes. The boulders are those things we have done that we should not have done; the potholes are the things we have failed to do which we obviously should have done. The more as individuals, family, or congregation, we are focused in this way, the less we will be overwhelmed by the commercialization of Christmas.
I intend to take these words to heart this Advent, removing the boulders of mistakes I have made, and filling in the potholes of good works left undone. Let’s do this work together, so that together, we will be ready to greet the arrival of our Savior.