The Stop the Madness: Return to Our Senses retreat is over. In preparation for the day I set up prayer stations around the house so that participants could have private spaces to reflect and focus on God. It is something you might want to consider as a way to help you focus too. Thinking about how to design these so that there were a variety of ways to connect to God and story of God inspired and encouraged my own walk towards Advent.
My favourite was the Advent prayer garden I created – but more about that tomorrow.
One of the stations included our olive wood nativity from Jerusalem. One participant commented that he normally hates to sit and reflect in silence but that having the pieces that he could touch, pick up and rearrange provided an experience that really spoke to him. It made me realize how often we limit people’s ability to enter into an experience of God because we only provide a few ways in which to interact with God. Discovering our own unique way of interacting with God is essential if we want to grow in our faith.
The highlight of the retreat for all of us was the sharing time at the end of each session. Listening to each other stirred our imaginations and created some wonderful new ways for all of us to enter into the season. One person suggested starting Advent early at American Thanksgiving adding to the traditional themes of love, joy, hope and peace with another week focused on gratitude and thankfulness. This idea inspired all of us, and Tom and I have committed to this new practice for our lives.
Another suggestion was making Advent wreaths out of palm prints. I suggested using kids palm prints but one couple piped up and said “Why not palm prints from grandparents?” to send to our grandkids.
A third suggestion was using St Nicholas Day as a time to share Christmas goodies with your neighbours. One participant has done this for years. Now their neighbours are waiting excitedly for the visit often with gifts of their own.
The creative possibilities for celebrating this season are endless. Set up your own prayer station, take some time to reflect and stir your imagination to create new and meaningful ways to celebrate Advent and Christmas without getting caught up in the consumer frenzy.