Advent: What are you waiting for?

November 18, 2021
By: Father Benet Phillips, O.S.B.

For many of us in the monastery, Advent is our favorite liturgical season.  As the days get shorter, as it starts to feel more like winter, we are given a season of waiting, of preparation, and hope.  We take Advent seriously in the monastery. No hauling out the holly just yet.  The readings, hymns, vesture, conferences by the Abbot all work together to reawaken in us a sense of longing and urgency as we prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas. We hear the words and sing songs that are familiar and yet ever new.  We meet our old friends like Isaiah and John the Baptist.  We sing to the “Creator of the Stars of Night” and we end our prayer each day invoking Mary, the Loving Mother of the Redeemer. 

One of my favorite Advent customs is that we sing a short hymn as the Advent wreath is lighted each evening in the refectory (monastic dining room).  While it’s not quite like singing for your supper, this custom, which is unique to Advent, reminds us something is different, something special is happening; pay attention.

This year we have four full weeks of Advent which allows us all a bit more time to consider how deeply each of us needs to be visited, embraced and perhaps rearranged by our God.  It is a four week liturgical and spiritual journey moving us inward so as to live more fully outward.  We begin a season of grace to be more alert and receptive to the invitation and presence of Jesus who is always “adventing” in us.

For many a New Year brings about New Year’s resolutions.  Mine usually last until around January 3rd and then I convince myself that a chocolate chip cookie is really a breath mint.  In Advent we are starting a new Church year perhaps we could be thinking about a new year’s resolution.  Think about it -- is there something or someone in your life that could use some positive attention during this season of Advent.  I know there are plenty of “somethings” and “someones” in my life so I pray that I may be given the strength and courage to actually prepare the way of the Lord by preparing the way of my heart to be a place of hope and holy vision.

Megan McKenna in her book, Send My Roots Rain, writes, “God is a thief intent on stealing our sins, our evil and vengeance, our violence all that clutters and stands in the way of hope, of salvation, and unity among us all.  Our God is a thief, and Advent is the beginning of the adventure, the time when God breaks into our house, our world and steals us blind shifting all of history and saving the lost.” 

Advent is about shifting—shifting our priorities, values, projects.  If the Gospel teaches us anything it is be prepared for our God will come in ways least expected. 

Questions for Reflection

How might you slow down during Advent to prepare for Christmas?

Do you have any Advent resolutions?

What’s your reaction to the image of God as a thief?

How will you keep Christ in Christmas?


Lord Jesus, Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.

We who have so much to do and seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day,

We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.

We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.

We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.

We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.

To you we say, "Come Lord Jesus!'


- Henri J.M. Nouwen