Advent: Listening with our bodies

The spiritual life is full of different forms of waiting. It is so easy to forget the importance of waiting – what it does, what it is for, and who it leads us to become. When we forget the importance of waiting, we also usually forget that there are myriad practices associated with waiting that more greatly open us to the benefits of a process like this. The rhythms and rituals of the church calendar call our attention back to waiting, anticipation, listening, etc. as practices of worship and devotion. As with many life practices, we have gotten out of the habit of involving our bodies in the process. We allow our cerebral minds to consider and analyze life inevitabilities and processes. We observe our emotions dipping in and out of our thinking, and let our minds expand our hearts for the briefest of moments. Our spirits are involved in a very automatic way also, of course, as worship and devotion are meant to call out to the spirit in both whispers or shouts. But the body…what about the body?

In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he says our bodies are living, dynamic containers for the Spirit of the living God –– temples. In a modern Western experience of Christianity, we have usually been told what not to do with our bodies, how they can get us into trouble. But we rarely talk about how beautifully our bodies can get us out of trouble. God is such an artist, however, that He has created these fleshy temples in which we can carry around His Living Spirit and worship him in the most ordinary and plain things. So often we pray for a miracle…but just like when you’re desperately searching for your lost keys then look down and find them in your hands, the miracles that we pray for are already in plain sight if only we can become still enough to pay attention and see.

The lighting, beholding, and enjoying of the Advent candles is a special but very ordinary thing. Though we only practice this rhythm once a year together in our spiritual communities, it is a very common thing––lighting the wicks of candles that sit in a simple circle. But when done with specific attention paid, it invites our whole beings into sweet attunement with the process of the no-matter-what with-ness of God.

Advent is the season we tend to most intentionally sit silently in life’s tensions, listen carefully, and wait for Jesus, the Light of the Cosmos, the being within the Divine dance who is called Emmanuel, “God with us.”

What vast expectation and eager anticipation might we experience if we were to fully grasp the infinitude of what God’s with-ness truly means?

God is so decisive about wanting exchange and unity with humankind that He brought visibility to invisibility, He revealed Himself in the flesh, and allowed Himself to be known in every possible human capacity and dimension: above in the heavens, below through Incarnation, in the depths of death, and the breadth of the entire universe. This is a God who wants to know and be known.

So. Each week for the next four weeks, another Advent candle will be lit. As the number of flames increase, so does the tension of our waiting expectantly. The portal between the flames and our attunement is the body. But I invite you to take this beyond the lighting of the candles on Sunday. How might you invite the mysteries of such a time into your whole being over the next four week on a daily basis? If He can form His own body from the body a virgin girl two thousand years ago, He can surely invite your particular body into the process of anticipating His ever-coming and ever-with-ness in you this season.

May God help us.