Advent Reflections: Welcome (Week 0)
[W]e are lucky enough to to be able to share Urban Skye Project's "Advent Guide" with you all, our readers. I am very excited about this because it is a beautiful series on the theme of "Thin Places," a Celtic idea about the nearness of God. We will post from their guide each week this month. Enjoy! WELCOME TO ADVENT Christmas is a high point in the Church calendar as it marks the Incarnation, the fleshing of God into our world. For thousands of years people have not only celebrated it, they have been moved by it. They have connected with God and with each other in a way that has changed them. Is that your experience? It’s not a question of whether you find Christmas enjoyable or frantic or irrelevant or sentimental. The question is do you experience Christmas as spiritual? It doesn’t require a churched past to at least expect this High Holy Day to be a positive spiritual experience. This Advent Guide was created to enhance the spirituality of our Christmas season. By season we mean to honor 1,700 years of Church tradition that begins the calendar with a four week gift preceding the Feast of the Nativity on December 25. Called Advent (meaning “the arrival” from the Latin, Adventus) it is a gift the modern era has often left unopened. But let us be clear, gentle reader; this guide is not designed for the exceptionally holy, theologically trained or overtly religious. It’s simply designed for those who seek to connect with God and, we hope, connect with others on our common spiritual journey. If you long for a heightened spiritual life this Christmas season, please read on and see what thin places you may discover during these four weeks of Advent. May you learn to cultivate thin places. And may you be different because of it. The Urban Skye Community in Denver www.urbanskye.org
“THIN PLACES” Our Advent theme was taken from the Celtic tradition of “thin places”. For the Celts, certain geography was seen as sacred because the distance between the human and the Divine felt particularly thin. God was near in that place. For our guide, however, we will expand the idea of thin places beyond natural geography. This has plenty of precedent: Jesus proclaimed “the Kingdom of God is near.” St. Paul told even “pagan” crowds that “God is not far from any of us.” So, how might we cultivate this nearness of God? Instead of geography, we will explore certain types of encounters that seem to create thin place experiences. We’ll do this through the Nativity Story found in the first two chapters of St Luke’s gospel. In the Nativity Story, we have four poetic outbursts as evidence that a character is standing in a very thin place. They’ve had an encounter! When someone bursts into laughter, you wonder what was so funny, and when an Advent character bursts into song, you want to know what caused it. That cause is what we will seek to understand and cultivate this season: What was happening to cause Mary to burst forth in song? Why did Zechariah wax poetic at this particular moment? What were the shepherds doing when the heavens opened up to them? What led up to Simeon’s prophetic words to the new parents? What caused and led up to each outburst is what we’ll call a thin place; evidence that God has come near in the story. USING THIS GUIDE The four Sundays preceding Christmas mark the four weeks of Advent. Our guide is organized into four weekly sections (even if the final “week” is not a full seven days). Each week will highlight one encounter and one aspect of our thin place theme. We invite you to read the biblical account for yourself each week. We’ll reference the poems as well as the thin place encounter which precedes them (online resources are abundant for reading the story in several translations.) Even if you are familiar with the Nativity, there are always new discoveries to be found. We will highlight a Celtic tradition each week as The Celtic Way. We find the Celtic expression of faith to be of particular value today for all who seek to follow the path of Christ. You may find one Celtic tradition that inspires you to do more exploring on your own. We will have several suggestions for cultivating your thin place. There may be questions to ask yourself or another. There may be exercises to do or activities to consider and we recommend journaling along the way. We encourage any response that seems best suited to you. You’ll find Celtic prayers throughout this guide that will greatly aid your journey. Now, enter the season with this Celtic Advent Blessing and may you find The Coming One alive in your life. God of the watching ones, the waiting ones, the slow and suffering ones, give us Your benediction, Your good word for our souls, that we might rest. Amen.
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