By Althea Jerome
The high school youth in my home church are an inspiration. They enjoy spending time together. They support one another in their school activities, celebrating one another’s accomplishments. This group includes individuals who are involved in sports, band, debate team and show choir.
Recently, we met for a conversation about how we prepare for an event in our daily life or our spiritual life. I also mentioned to them that we would soon enter the season of Advent, which is a time of preparation. That led to a discussion about the kinds of things they do to prepare themselves, just as we might prepare ourselves for the season of Advent and the sacred moments that allow us to experience joy as we prepare for the celebration of Christ’s birth.
One person mentioned the importance of repetition, for example, hearing familiar scriptures and singing seasonal hymns. Another mentioned the value of practice, something the musicians in the group have learned through group music experiences. The practice of prayer and singing is an excellent way to awaken hearts and minds to the wonder of the season and how worshiping together can deepen faith.
One of the girls in the group suggested that preparing the way could occur through a personal challenge, for example, trying a new spiritual practice, setting a new goal, or working with an organization that helps people in need.
I suggested that a moment of silence (silent prayer) among gathered friends or colleagues is a helpful way to focus prior to an upcoming performance. The group understood that rituals like a moment of silence before a performance can help us concentrate in the moment, and binds us together as a group so that we might do our best.
One of the older members of the group commented on the value of breathing as a means of preparation. Guided breathing exercises help group members to clear their minds and sharpen their thinking for positive outcomes.
A review of Advent hymn texts can serve as a means to prepare the way; a devotional of sorts. The following verse is an invitation to everyone to consider how we might prepare our hearts for the incarnation.
Hymn 104 O Lord, How Shall I Meet You (text by Paul Gerhardt)
1. O Lord, how shall I meet you, how welcome you a-right?
Your people long to greet you, my hope, my heart’s delight!
O kindle, Lord most holy, a lamp within my breast,
to do in spirit lowly all that may please you best.
2. Love caused your incarnation; love brought you down to me;
your thirst for my salvation procured my liberty.
O love beyond all telling, that led you to embrace in love, all loves excelling, our lost and fallen race.