Monday, December 12, 2011
Last night, we had our Advent Evening of Reflection with the teens at our church. We started the evening as we start all of our monthly large group gatherings, with a potluck supper in the social hall. The teens spent the first hour talking and laughing, scarfing down their meal and then feasting on the desserts. For some reason, most of the main dishes that were brought happened to be some sort of pasta. That's the first time that's ever happened, like the kids who brought it were all on the same wavelength. It was kind of cool. But I digress.
We had set up different stations in two of the rooms of the hall, each station with an item and an instruction sheet on how to do the reflection there. Our stations included a Nativity set, candles, a Bible, an image of Christ the King, and a statue of the Infant Jesus in a manger. At the end of the hall, we made the Room of Silence. In this room, the teens were given tasks to do without speaking. The tasks ranged from lying on the floor and resting for a couple of minutes to sculpting a reflection on Advent out of Play-Doh.
After supper, each of the teens was given a journal and a pen and told to go prayerfully and quietly to each of the stations. There was no set order, no time limit, and they were not assigned to small groups. They were on their own to explore and experience each station at their own pace. We had a monitor in each room in case anyone needed help or had questions.
As the teens completed the whole rotation, they drifted back into the main hall. I gathered them in small groups and asked them to share with me and one another what impacted them during this exercise. They gave wonderful answers about envisioning themselves far from the stable (Nativity set station) and determining that they wanted to try harder to get closer to Jesus this Christmas. They spoke boldly about feeling the warmth of Christ's light (candle station) and seeing sin and apathy as things that brought them farther away from that Light and warmth, and wanting to change their lives to remain as close to the Light as possible. For every station, they shared deep and intimate reflections.
What struck them most, they said, was the Room of Silence. When we talked about that experience in their small groups, the teens lit up and shared how that was their favorite time of the evening. They told about the need for quiet in their own lives, away from the stress of homework and jobs; their desire for silence amid the constant noise of TV and i-Pods, cell phones and video games. They shared how they enjoyed just lying on the floor in complete silence with nowhere else to be, nothing else to do, and no obligations tugging at them. It was a lesson in stilling their spirits and resting in Jesus. And it was one that they embraced.
We prayed at the end of the night that they would each find (or take, if need be) just two minutes each day over these Advent and Christmas seasons to experience that silence, to find just a moment to rest in the arms of Jesus and let Him love them. That's what we all really need, I think, especially during this Christmas shopping season when we're not only doing everything we normally do but also running everywhere trying to hunt down the perfect gift or decoration. In all the hustle and bustle of life's demands, when we're being pulled in so many different directions that it almost feels like we might just fall apart, what we need most is to take a time out to lie down for just two minutes and let the God of the Universe love us.
I for one am going to take a few silent minutes to ponder the great gift that God gave us, the gift we celebrate on Christmas Day, and rest in the arms of the One who loves me so much that He came to earth to die for my sins and to teach me how to live so that I can spend my eternity loving Him.
My prayer for each of you is that you, too, will find (or take) the time to rest this holiday season -- even if it's only for two minutes each day.