A time for reflecting
Advent offers a chance to reassess our relationship with God. | Read: Psalms 103–106
In a holiday season often marked by a frenzied pace, the season of Advent offers us a time to pause, a time to reflect, a time of quiet preparation.
The previous church year has come to its end on Christ the King Sunday, also known as Reign of Christ Sunday (Nov. 25 this year). The church year has ended not as many endings do—with nothing that lies beyond—but with a celebration of the assurance that our faith gives us. At the end of the church year we find, instead of nothingness, a face, a person we know—Jesus Christ, who welcomes us into God’s presence.
The new church year opens with Advent, the period beginning four Sundays before Christmas. Advent gives us space, a place and a time to prepare to walk in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, through the church year. The new church year carves out a time between celebrating Jesus Christ as the one in whose presence all things find ultimate fulfillment (Christ’s reign) and celebrating Jesus Christ as the one whose coming to us in Bethlehem those years ago made possible a new way of life—one lived Sunday by Sunday, day by day, hour by hour in the presence of God.
Advent, the between time, is a period for reflection and preparation. We prepare by reflecting on Jesus Christ, who has gone before us in time, who is ahead of us at time’s end. We reflect on God and God’s ways in and with the world. We reflect on our own lives, evaluating what God is doing in our lives and making decisions about what hinders our walk with Jesus Christ and what turns us away from Jesus. Remembering, repenting of sins, making ready for the festival: all have a place in Advent.
Pray: for guidance
Pray for the Holy Spirit to guide your reflection as you dwell with these psalms and as you prepare for Christ’s arrival among us—back then, in the future and in the midst of this day and time.
Study: Psalms of praise
Psalms 103 through 106 chart a path. Psalm 103 is a psalm of praise to God giving thanks for who God is and for how God deals with us and all creatures. Psalm 104 is a psalm of praise for what God has done in nature, creating a world that provides in manifold ways. Psalm 105 is a psalm of praise giving thanks for what God has done to provide for the people of God in history. Psalm 106 also praises God for providing for God’s people, but this time with a twist. The psalm not only remembers what God has done but also highlights the failure of the people of God to live out gratitude for God’s provision. It remembers our sins and praises God for God’s faithfulness in the face of our sin.
These four psalms chart a path of praise: praising God for who God is, praising God for the goodness of creation that gives the gift of life to all creatures, praising God for having led the people of God in history, praising God for God’s faithfulness amid the sins that we confess.
Read Psalms 103 through 106 one at a time, perhaps on different days. As you read, reflect on how you can add your voice to each psalm’s distinctive message of praise. Write those things down as something like an addendum, your personal appendix, to each psalm. For example, as you read Psalm 103, reflect on what aspects of God’s being you offer praise and thanks for, and then write those things down. Reflect on each psalm in this way.
Remember: Psalm 103:1–2
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits.”
Live: Caring for our world
Consider this statement from one of our worship resources: “Since we believe the Lord is coming to judge the world, then we must prepare the world for judgment. . . . Our Advent witness to the coming of Christ requires caring about our world, our neighbors, our enemies—everyone” (Liturgical Year: The Worship of God [Supplemental Liturgical Resource 7], Westminster John Knox Press, 1992, p. 47).
Reflect on particular ways in which you can witness to the coming of Christ by caring for our world. Commit to do one or two of them in the year to come, and put that on your calendar.