* A note on Celtic Advent. Those of you who have followed us for a while will know that our Advent blog series always follows Celtic Advent as the Celtic Church is part of our heritage here in Scotland. For those of you new to our blog, this is not “rushing Christmas.” The purpose of Celtic Advent is the exact opposite. Similar to the 40 days of Lent, it is season that encourages us to slow down, to reflect, to listen, to wait, to watch and to begin to prepare space within our hearts to symbolically welcome the coming of Jesus into our midst once again.
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19
It was the first week of January, 2021, and, due to lockdown, even quieter than the usual Scottish slow crawl into the new year. I was sitting with my coffee and journal, asking the Father for a word for the coming year – for myself, but even more for the Church in Scotland. And the words above are what came to me. He chose not to hugely expound on it so I simply noted it down in my journal, like Mary, “treasuring it in my heart.” Over the next wee while I discovered others were hearing these same words, though like me, with no profound interpretation or application.
As we enter into Celtic Advent, these words are returning to me. I believe in this Advent season there is an invitation from God to notice, to see, to “perceive” the new. But in order to notice, to see, to perceive, we must be intentionally waiting, listening, watching.
We may be tired of hearing it but it is true. After what we have been walking through as a global community and with what still lies ahead of us, there is no returning to how things were. Even if we could, we would find that we no longer fit comfortably there, because we ourselves have changed.
So we are all still navigating this liminal space, wandering this wilderness that lies between the old and the new. There seem to be no models to learn from, no experienced leaders to follow. And more than anything, we are weary.
I see it everywhere, hear it in most conversations and even feel it within myself at times. So many, church leaders included, are desperately looking for a plan, a strategy, a vision for the future, the new. Our meeting tables are strewn with papers bearing our feverish scribbles of potential ideas, strategies, projects, programs, vision that all seem lacking or not quite it and our bodies, minds and hearts are bruised from the striving. Creative thinking has been put to the test and completely drained these past 18 months and clarity seems to remain just out of reach.
These words in Isaiah came to a people in a similar place. They were an unfamiliar place, in a land that was not their own and a land where they knew they would not remain. They had come through much suffering and they were no longer the people they had been. The years spent in this liminal space had been long and they were weary, with no vision for the future. They were just “heads down, getting on with it.”
Then God breaks in with this promise that is also an invitation. An invitation to lift their heads, lift their gaze, to see, to perceive the new thing that God was doing. The time would come for them to do, to partner with Him in what He was doing. The invitation right now is to see, to wait and watch.
This Celtic Advent, His invitation to us is the same. To lift our heads, to interrupt our busy schedules, to lift our eyes from our meeting tables and places of striving, and to position ourselves where we are more likely to see, to perceive the new that God Himself is doing. The time will come for us to partner with Him in the doing of the new. This season is for seeing. For stilling, quietening, listening in the place of His presence and in that place the seeing and perceiving will come.
Will you join me this Advent in settling into His presence, waiting there while watching and listening, our hearts being enlarged in the waiting to receive His coming once again?
Crystal comes originally from Oregon, the best state in the US, but has claimed Scotland as home for 12+ years. She is the National Coordinator for 24-7 Prayer Scotland and loves being part of the wild, contagious and life-transforming movement that is 24-7 Prayer. She is also part of the Discovery Church family, a 24-7 Prayer Community Church in beautiful Dunbar, where you can often find her walking on the beach or in the woods. Crystal loves hospitality, reading, talking about prayer, the history of Celtic Christianity, being out in nature, exploring new places and cultures, and good conversations over coffee (or a glass of red wine).