I offer this Windows reflection as we move into the final week in this beautiful Advent season with gratitude. How quickly my four months as your sabbatical priest have passed. I am thankful to have the fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas eve in your community before my time with you comes to an end. I want to thank you for welcoming me into your parish community, for joining in the forums we have shared, for the vestry meetings, staff meetings, executive committee meetings, for coffee hours with the children and most of all our Sunday worship. You are a parish full of life and poised to thrive and grow as you move out of the period of isolation that COVID brought into enjoying your community and discerning how to be present in God’s world for others. You remain in my prayers as we celebrate the Feast of the Nativity, and as you welcome a New Year and the return of your Rector. I offer this final Window’s reflection on the Advent theme of silence in thanksgiving for the time we have shared. May God continue to richly bless each and every one of you.
We have waited in silence on your loving-kindness, O God.
Silence is not always appealing. It can be frightening. I used to be afraid of silence, afraid of being alone. I avoided silence by over scheduling and taking on too much ( which was easy to do as a parish priest with a family) I didn’t want to face the part of me that needed to be in God’s presence. Maybe God would notice how busy I was and that would be enough. But it wasn’t, it never is. I was resisting being still in the presence of God.
My vestry and I accustomed to debating budgets, making property decisions, reviewing strategic planning and staffing went on a day-long retreat. The day began sitting in a beautiful chapel our chairs placed next to each other in the shape of a half moon. Light came through the stained glass, and candles were lit in arched alcoves. Our leader told us we would begin the morning with fifteen minutes of shared silence. The silence commenced with the ringing of a bell. We were invited to share what the silence was like for us. A mother of twin toddlers had fallen asleep, some felt contentment and peace, others found it disturbing to not do or say anything for that long. Our treasurer worked for a financial investment firm, he was a quiet person, devoted to our parish, giving generously of his time and money and he was unable to speak when his turn came. We sat quietly and with tears rolling down his face he smiled and said “I guess I needed that. I have never sat in silence before. It was scary for me at first. I wanted to get up and leave, but then I was suddenly overwhelmed by a feeling of being loved.“
Silence cleans the room of our cluttered souls. The mind rests from continual movement and spinning. It is no wonder that silence is God’s eternal language.
As we come to final weeks of Advent, if you have not had or taken time to make space for God to be born into your life, try a small period of silence. There is nothing like being still. Whether it puts us to sleep, disturbs us, or floods us with love, offering silence to God is perhaps the purest, truest prayer.
O God of peace who has taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and trust will be our strength, by the might of your spirit, lift us we pray to your presence where we may be still and know that you are God.
A Prayer for Quiet Confidence, The Book of Common Prayer, p. 832