Advent, a time for reflection and hope

During the weeks leading up to my Profession as a Mercy Sister, I decided on my motto. The words, which meant a lot to me back then and which are etched on my ring, remain significant to this day – ‘Be still and know that I am God’, a line from Psalm 46 verse 10. Over the years, I am learning that sometimes it is very hard to be still, to take time, to wait patiently with a confidence and a hope that the path ahead will become clearer and that all will be well.

In the Christian tradition we refer to the four weeks leading up to Christmas as ADVENT, a time of waiting and preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. The wonder and anticipation of Christmas is often lost in the ‘consumer-focused’ media bombardment about what to eat, what to buy, where to go for holidays, deadlines for sending parcels etc. While these are relatively important matters, they have the potential to drown out recognition of our need for still places and to dull our attentiveness to the personal situations of work colleagues, family or friends for whom Christmas might be a difficult time or have little meaning.

At the time of the birth of Jesus, there were social, religious and political tensions, many of them similar to what our fractured world is experiencing now. Probably, there were many people travelling long, hard roads to find somewhere safe, to find a home where their hopes and dreams could be nourished and bear fruit. If you and I had been alive back then and we had encountered Mary and Jesus on their journey, what might we have done in response to their sudden need for a safe place for this promised child to be born? Perhaps that is the wrong question as we will never know the answer.

What we do know, however, is that we encounter people on their journey each day in our various ministries and that we have the opportunity to respond with kindness and compassion to their needs. If we intentionally take time each day to reflect and be still, to ponder quietly the great gift of relationships, and our beautiful, fragile environment, then this Advent time can be rich with possibility and promise. We can learn to draw deeply from the wellspring of a peaceful inner spirit. Perhaps we can then look differently at our daily tasks and see them as opportunities to bring a gift of hope to a fellow human being. Acknowledging the fruits of such ‘reflective practice’, we can become bearers of the good news of hope and peace, soothing fractured relationships in preparation for Christmas.

Annette Schneider RSM

So we pray…

O God, long-awaited One, as we join the long procession of those who have waited for you over the centuries, give us patience to use this time of waiting in a way that brings direction and hope to our world.

As we anticipate the celebration of your birth, remind us that you are already present in all the events and relationships that constitute our lives.

Give us discerning hearts that we may find you wherever and whenever you come to meet us. We ask this in hope, Amen.

[Intercessions of Mercy (2009) Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Skokie, IL: ACTA Publications p. 35; 37]

A resource to share…

Anna Nicholls RSM, a Mercy sister based in Auckland, Aotearoa, New Zealand, has created a beautiful Advent calendar, including a small quote for each day of Advent and the week following Christmas day. The quotes are organised into themes:

Week 1: Hope

Week 2: Peace

Week 3: Joy

Week 4: Love

You can access the calendar here:

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