In this busy season we want to encourage you to slow down and create space to focus on the reality that God is with us. In this article, Michael Munson encourages us to wait on the promises of God.
As we near the end of our advent preparation it is a good opportunity to practice solidarity with all of those who are waiting for the promises of Jesus Christ the Messiah, Immanuel, God coming to be with us.
For centuries for the nation of Israel God had seemingly been silent. Occupation after occupation of their land by different foreign nations. They were trying to trust in God, they were trusting in his promises to redeem his people and free them from oppression, just as he had done when they were in Egypt. But for a long, long time there was no change.
What are you waiting for in your life? What freedom have you been hoping for, what oppression are you experiencing? Do you find yourself having a hard time holding on to the promises of God? Use this experience to place yourself in the story of Jesus’ coming. To feel what humanity has felt and still feels today. Wondering where hope comes from if there is true joy to be had.
Take these feelings to the manger where the baby Jesus is lying with his young mother and father. Begin to see and hear the signs; the magi and a star, the angels in the heavens and shepherds coming in from their fields. Look for the way God has been speaking to you as you wait. Do this as we practice the steps of reflection and prayer that we have been doing together these past four weeks.
Step 1: Stop
- Wherever you are, just stop for a moment. Close your eyes for just a few extra seconds. Maybe you need to sit, maybe you need to find a space away from the computer or the TV, either way just pause what you are doing. Stop the movement of your body.
Step 2: Breathe
- This goes hand in hand with stopping. When we stop our physical bodies it can feel as if our emotions or our minds go racing. Actually they are probably always going that fast we are just now noticing.
- Now breathe, deeply in, and slowly out. Start to draw your mind, your imagination towards Jesus. Maybe thinking about the story of his birth, or the promise of him in Isaiah, or the angel’s visit to Mary. It could be something from your own life, a memory of God being with you.
- Breathe deeply in, and slowly out. Keep doing this throughout as you think of it.
Step 3: Listen
- Always the hardest part. You’ve stopped your body, you are slowing down your emotions with your breathing, your mind might be slowing too. Though this is a time to listen, a prayer may rise to your lips. It might start as a feeling. Put words to it. Keep it simple, one sentence if you can.
- Pray it in your heart, or out loud up to you. Just once, then listen.
- If you get distracted, pray it again, and stop, breathe, listen.
Step 4: Rest
- You have heard from God. It might be a fun memory of Christmases past. It might be a hope for the future. It could be a song lyric on your mind, or a reassurance of life. But rest assured it will be a way that you can understand. Sometimes we need practice noticing his voice, and it may take doing this a handful of times to realise you are hearing God.
- Either way, rest. Breathe again, you can point prayers of thanks back to God if you’d like. Maybe you just want to smile and stare out the window and look at his creation in gratitude. It’s up to you. But give yourself just a bit longer than you feel is necessary to rest.
Whatever this day holds, there is grace to stop, breathe, listen and rest in our Lord, as he is Immanuel, God with us, no matter the atmosphere we find ourselves in.
I hope you have had some great moments listening for the Spirit to speak to you during our advent season. I also hope and pray you are able to take what he has been saying and use it in worship to celebrate the coming of our Lord to be with us. Bless you this Christmas, may you experience the depth of truth that Immanuel is not just with us, but he is with you.