Each year, at the beginning of Advent, I pray for eyes to see the Holy Child wherever He may appear. I believe my first sighting came early this year, the first weekend of the season, at our Advent Centering Prayer Retreat. A middle-aged couple introduced themselves to the group on the first evening by telling us that they had moved here from another part of the country seeking better services for an elderly and disabled parent.
I marveled that they had chosen to use the time to attend a silent retreat. In their place, most people would probably have shouted “Freedom!” while perusing the current movie listings and reviews of new dining options on TripAdvisor. But here they were, looking only to rest a bit in a quiet spot.
I had come to the retreat not just as a facilitator, but as another seeker. I was tired, too, if only from anticipation of the hectic Christmas season ahead. This year, the December calendar was as full as an overstuffed Christmas stocking. Life was busy enough without the added tasks of baking, decorating, and hosting the obligatory gatherings. And the gifts to shop for, and packages to mail! Already I felt overwhelmed, buried under lists of lists.
I wondered how to do it differently this year, How could I move through the holidays with gratitude rather than resentment, with a sense of peace even in the midst of activity? After all, Jesus was born into the very messiness of human life, not into a place where all was neatly prepared and ready. I longed to carry the Christ child in my heart this Advent season, but there was simply no room in the Inn.
And so, that first evening, as we all sat in prayer, I asked God for the gift of peace. I prayed that, in the space between gently released thoughts, the veil might be lifted from my eyes and Christ enter in. Then the group dispersed in silence to retire for the night.
The next morning at breakfast I saw the couple again. Overnight, snow had blanketed the world outside, and just beyond the windows the white-draped pine trees, tall and regal as magi, drew near. All was quiet: the hushed outdoors, the silent dining room. They sat side by side, gazing out, wordlessly taking in the scene. In the fullness of the moment, Peace was re-born for all. It was going to be a blessed Christmas.
Jody was co-facilitator, along with Carol Quest, of this past year's Advent Centering Prayer Retreat.