Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Ongoing Illumination of Advent

Advent is my favorite season of the year. I go weeks with, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" stuck in my head. I feel a sense of anticipation. The nearness of the Second Coming is almost tangible during this time. I find myself over and over again in awe of God's presence.

This Advent in Poland was no exception. This Advent season, we had the privilage of visiting a Dominican church for their Sunrise services each week before Christmas. Last year in Poznan we went twice a week, but this year we chose instead to do one instead. When you have to leave the apartment at 5:20a.m., you begin to re-think how often you really want to go! This year, I was especially moved by the first and last Advent services we attended.

Just to let you in on what it's like: it's a pre-dawn, candlelight service with lots of gentle singing and a short homily--about 45 minutes. For a video clip of one of last year's services in Poznan, click here.

This year, the first service blew me away. It had been a year since I had attended a Dominican service and--let me tell you--these guys know their stuff. The entire service I was in awe at the desperation of God's people for His presence. Throughout the service, people kneel, pray, listen, and respond. Each participant seemed so in tune with the cry of the Priest for God's presence. I found myself praying, "Lord, hear the prayers of these, your people!"

At the last service, a woman caught me on my way out. She handed me a tiny bracelet of
wooden beads and asked me to pray for her 4 God children. Of course I said yes, but she could
tell I was a little confused.

"You know," she told me, "after each of these advent services, you give someone your beads and explain your prayer request. They give you their beads in return and tell you their own prayer requests. There are 10 beads on the ring--one for each time you should pray for them today."

It was a beautiful tradition, but I had no beads to offer her.

"It's okay, I have 2." Wow.

I was overwhelmed. I have a friend whose grandmother is struggling mightily with cancer, and I asked this kind stranger to make that my prayer request that day. Through these 2 different early morning experiences, I have not only felt the presence of God this advent season, but I have felt the presence of His people! It warms my heart at Christmas to know that all over the world, God's children are crying out for Him to re-enter our reality and turn it upside down all over again! Amen!