by Christine Sine
On the Celtic and Orthodox calendar it is the start of Advent and we are beginning a journey towards the Feast of the Nativity. For Orthodox Christians this is a time of fasting, not as strict as the Lenten fast, but a fast non the less, when adherents refrain from meat, dairy, fish, wine, and olive oil.
Whether we fast or not, Advent and especially this extended Celtic Advent that we begin today, is a time to prepare for the great feast we celebrate at the birth of Christ. This is a time to shift our focus from ourselves to others, a season when we should worry less about what we eat, when we eat and how much we eat in order to free up time for prayer and caring of others. As individuals, we can honor the fast, spend more time in prayer, and make a conscious effort to love our neighbors as ourselves, dedicating this season to be a time for true, spiritual growth.
My focus for Advent is I choose joy. It is not a new theme for me, in fact I started focusing on this theme in June. Even the prayer above is an adaptation of one I wrote then. I have already put my Advent garden together deliberately choosing a circular bowl to plant it in as a reminder of the circle of my life. I also chose to recycle plants from a previous garden, this too a reminder that the circle of my life is not new but can be refreshed and replanted so that what is inside gives me greater joy.
Some of you might think this does not seem like a theme for a season of fasting or of simplifying which has traditionally been my focus in preparing for Christmas, but as I read in The Book of Joy by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and The Dalai Lama, Joy is a way of approaching the world. Our greatest joy comes when we reframe our situation more positively, experience gratitude and choose to be kind and generous. In a nutshell, our greatest joy comes when we focus away from ourselves, and seek to do good for others.
So let’s begin our celebration of Advent this year, with a few simple questions.
Get out a piece of paper or choose a fresh page in your journal. Write the words I choose joy on the page. Spend a few minutes prayerfully considering this phrase.
Now turn to a fresh page and draw a circle. Write inside the circle all the responsibilities and activities that you expect will consume your time in the coming weeks.
- What in your circle gives you joy? – Highlight these responsibilities with a brightly coloured marker or crayon.
- What are you choosing that gives God joy? – Highlight these with another coloured marker.
Now prayerfully look at your list and consider how you could reshape your time over the coming weeks to increase your joy. Think about The Book of Joy, and consider how you could reframe your situation more positively, experience joy and be kind and generous.
- What do you need to do more of to increase your joy?
- What do you need to let go of in order to increase your joy?
- How could you reshape your journey towards