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One of the themes we find in Advent is keeping watch.  Throughout the four weeks leading up to the birth of the Christ Child, we are to keep watch, preparing our hearts for the nativity of our Lord.  Traditionally, I have kept watch by using an Advent calendar or a special devotional book.  But this year, I am trying something new.  I have joined the Anglican Communion in a participatory Advent devotional called “Advent Word.”  Each day of Advent has an assigned word, and participants are invited to post a picture on social media that captures that word.

When I decided to join the Advent Word community, I was a bit nervous.  I worried what I would do if I could not figure out a picture to take or use that went with the daily word.  I have found my initial anxiety has not disappeared, but has created a sense of anticipatory tension.  Each day, I open up my email, and find a word and picture, with an invitation to prayer.  Then, throughout the day, I am keeping watch – for inspiration, for insight, for the Holy Spirit speaking to me anew through the images of everyday life.  By praying the word throughout the day, I am finding myself much more aware throughout the day, and much more attuned to God speaking to me in fresh ways.

In some ways, the anticipatory tension of participating in Advent Word has helped me accomplish the bigger goal of keeping watch during Advent.  Instead of having Advent slip by in the bustle of the season, each day has a poignancy and sense of meaning.  Instead of wishing away the days until Christmas comes, my Advent has become much more intentional and meaningful.

I wonder how your Advent is going?  Are you finding ways to keep watch?  If the days are slipping away, I invite you to find ways to slow down, and listen for the Holy Spirit who longs to prepare your heart for the Christ Child.  If you have found other ways to keep watch this Advent, I would love to hear about your experience.  If nothing else, I have learned this year that Christian community can be a wonderful partner in helping us keep watch.  If you are looking for such a community, Hickory Neck is full of everyday people who are happy to keep watch with you.