With ongoing church decline, coupled with the behavioural changes consequent to almost two years of living with COVID-19 restrictions, the church is hopefully discerning those facets of its life that are no longer necessary and can be let go of, those aspects that are necessary and should be carried forward, and what is being newly invited. One of the areas of the church’s life that I continue to find life-giving is the round of the liturgical year.
The movement from Advent to Christmas, from Lent to Easter, and the green growth of Ordinary Time—these liturgical seasons give rhythm and balance to the changing seasons of our spiritual life. Each liturgical season has its own particular giftedness, and as it arrives each year, our spirits are ready to receive its gifts.
As we enter into the liturgical season of Advent, the church invites us to watch and wait for the coming of Christ. This practice of “watching and waiting” is foundational to living healthy spiritual lives. Christ not only came to us in history, and is not only going to come at the end of time, but most importantly Christ comes to us in every moment of our lives. Are we spiritually watching and waiting? Are we noticing and joining the new and divine life that is ever emerging in our personal and corporate lives?
If we don’t have a deepening spiritual practice of watching and waiting for Christ or the emerging spirit in our lives, then we will miss the new opportunities to become a church relevant for today’s world.
The Church has become smaller during this time of pandemic, and I don’t think there is any recovering of what we were. This is probably a good thing that will help open up new pathways. Consequently, what we “were” is not as important as what we are “becoming.”
The Church has no monopoly on God. God is in God’s world doing what God is doing with or without the church. That being said, God is also in the church; but, do we have ears to hear and eyes to see what the Spirit is inviting?
The liturgical season of Advent reminds us of what we should be doing every moment of our lives. We need to learn how to make space for Christ in our lives, and prepare for Christ’s coming in this moment. As a church we really need to recover the contemplative component of our approach to God. We need to learn to get out of our thinking head space, and lean into our open spiritual heart space. It is from this deep place of unitive love where Christ comes to us. When we can watch and wait from this place of spiritual depth, we can join the emerging Spirit and become the church that God needs in the world today. This is not easy. But if the Church, and indeed the human species, is to survive, we have to learn to open up to our spiritual depths, and live out of the ever emerging life that is Christ.