First Week of Advent: Options

What do you do when you’re not sure whether you’re meant to continue something that you’ve been doing for a long time? There are many answers to a question like this.

One is you just stop, and see how it feels. Depending on how frequently the practice is, you take a week off, or a month, or a year. You decide to live without it for a while, and then you pay attention to what happens internally when it’s no longer a part of your routine. Maybe you return later after you rediscover a love for it, or maybe you discover how much happier you are without it and never go back.

Another option is you push through, possibly past the point of your tolerance for it. If you somehow rediscover your energy and passion for it, then you celebrate that and keep on keeping on. Or you completely crash and burn, and then you never want to be associated with it ever again.

The third…is there a third option? I mean, another option would just be you keep doing it and enjoying it, which probably means you weren’t struggling about continuing. If you still like it, then discernment about making a change isn’t a very pressing need. Maybe you tweak your approach to keep things fresh, but that’s different from agonizing at the crossroad between continuation and abandonment.

I’ve been at several of these crossroads the past few years. The first was whether to continue in pastoral ministry. For this, I chose Option One. Ask again later whether the rediscovery part happens or not.

The second was this blog, or rather, whether to finally leave the old one behind and start this one. I’d been living through Option Two for a very long time and saw the burnout coming, so here we are.

The third, such as it is, is this annual series of Advent posts. I did this for a very long time, enough to be able to compile many of them into a book. And when that happened, I started to wonder if this had run its course. Maybe a new blog and a collection of past reflections means this should be done.

And yet, I wrote this, and you’re now reading it. I don’t think this is an Option Two scenario, or at least it doesn’t feel like one. It’s not inertia or habit or obligation that moved me to do this. I’ve just reached the point where it doesn’t feel like Advent unless I write these. This has become an integral part of my own movement through this time of year.

This series–the reflection, the act of writing, the entire experience–helps me find hope. This does for me what decorating, baking, caroling, and whatever else does for others.

Maybe that’s the fourth option: not doing it because you enjoy it, but because it’s become a part of you. So here I am, writing through the season, seeking hope in my own way.

If you enjoyed this reflection, check out my new Advent ebook, Four Weeks: Reflections for Advent.

In Case You Didn’t Already Know, I Wrote an Advent Book

The season of Advent starts this Sunday, November 27th. For those unfamiliar, Advent is a season that begins four Sundays prior to Christmas, with each week focusing on the themes of hope, peace, joy, and love. It’s a time to prepare for the celebration to come and to invite reflection on how and why we need that new birth to happen.

Many devotional guides exist to guide people through this time. And now I, too, have written one.

Four Weeks: Reflections for Advent is a series of brief seasonal reflections that focus on our needs leading up to Christmas. They follow those four themes of hope, peace, joy, and love.

Four Weeks released on November 1st, and I’ve shared a lot of launch-related content to help give a better idea of what it’s about. Here it all is in one convenient location.

Barnes and Noble
Apple Books

Basic explanations
Four Weeks: Reflections for Advent – the announcement post
Frequently Asked Questions About Four Weeks – answering some FAQs about the book

Book excerpts
Four Weeks Book Excerpt: Lights
Four Weeks Book Excerpt: Scent

Podcast episode
Episode 65: Four Weeks

If you are one who observes this season, I hope that it is a meaningful and Spirit-filled time for you. And I hope that in some small way my book can help it be so.

A Prayer with a Basket

based on Deuteronomy 26:1-11

Faithful God, this is a week to express words of thanks. And so, here are some words of thanks.

Here are words of thanks for all that we consider blessings: love, health, safety, support, food on our tables, warmth, and so much more.

Here are words of thanks for the ways in which you are present in our lives: guiding, pushing, challenging, comforting, and calling.

Here are words of thanks for our own gifts and talents, and for opportunities to use them for the benefit of others, for the improvement of this world you love, and for our own growth.

We share these thankful words out of sincere gratitude.

O God, may we be mindful of other words this week: words that remind us of where we’ve been, of times when we have not been so fortunate, of moments when we were much more dependent on you and on others because our own devices weren’t enough to carry us through.

May we not only remember, but also offer a portion of what we’ve been given back to you through giving to others, so that all may have what they need.

And may all these words be with us the rest of the year as well.