35In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” 38He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” 39And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
Today’s thought talked about the need for a “lonely place” as well as a “busy place” – somewhere to, if you like, “be still and know that I am God.” The challenge calls for us to review whether we have a balance between the active and the silent times, and to seek that balance in Advent.
I’m wondering what to make of this. I know people who are lonely who would argue that loneliness is not what it’s cracked up to be; that it feels cold, alone, unloved. I know what this means – I used to come home every night just about when I lived in Milton Keynes and worked first there and then down in St Abans. I’d come home on a Friday night and my treat would be a Chinese from the takeaway in Shenley Brook End and, whilst it was being prepared, to go buy some wine from Unwins. I don’t think this is what this story has in mind. I pray for those who are alone, particularly at Christmas – no friends, no family, surrounded by those having fun.
But what I do think we are called to do is to search out that still small voice of calm. In amongst my accounting work (deadlines for filing things by 31 December; preparing for the year end); getting ready with an eighteen month old and with Sarah’s dad and brother and my parents arriving; and helping out at church (those candles won’t stuff themselves) leaves little time for anything else. Even time spent in church is spent wondering what’s next – what we need to do, where we should be, whether those teenagers playing with their candles will set fire to their service sheet.
In amongst this then I need to make the time. Being taught the discipline of what is now known as #trainprayer – blocking out the buzz of the carriage around, firing up the CofE website and reading Monring Prayer by Sara has helped. Reading this book will help. And I hope to make some time to visit the shrine at the Abbey occasionally.
After all, “how silently, how silently, this wondrous gift is given.” May we learn to appreciate silence, and to appreciate this wondrous gift that is to come.