For some reason, a phase from a long ago Advent season in my home church sticks in my mind. Our preacher spoke of it often in December. He talked about “The Royal Mile of the Spirit from Thanksgiving to Christmas.” As I remember it, he used this phrase every Advent during his tenure in the church in which I grew up. He leaned out from the pulpit, looked at us very directly, and invited us into a deeply meaningful new kind of journey.
The other reality is, however, that I don’t’ remember anything he said about it, any specifics. All I remember is his regular invitation to walk that “royal mile.” I remember that I borrowed that phrase/image and used it a few times myself in my own Advent preaching.
Perhaps it is partly a reference to an enhanced practice of “contemplation.” I am not, by nature, a contemplative. But as I grow older, I have a deeper appreciation for that particular discipline. And if there is a time of the year when contemplation is useful, even necessary, it is the Advent season. So much clutter. So much urging us to consume. So much that seemingly needs to get done. Yet Advent is mostly a call to contemplation. To look at the “story” of the season and realize that it says much more than meets the eye. Contemplation causes us to see a new kind of Kingdom—so different from the “kingdoms of this world.” Contemplation allows us to internalize a deeper sense of peace – the kind of peace that passes all understanding. Contemplation allows us to sense the power in compassion.
Or perhaps it is a reference to a deeper meaning of “waiting.” When we wait for God, when we wait for the prompting of God’s Spirit, when we wait in such a way as to “renew our strength” and “not grow weary” (from Isaiah), we are walking that “royal spiritual mile.” I believe that the Old Testament prophets, the Psalmist, and Jesus invite us to wait for the presence of God on the road from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Meaning, we are invited to put ourselves into the Presence of God with all the intentionality we can muster! And to draw strength and hope from that creative waiting. Editor John Buchanan writes in the current issue of The Christian Century:
It’s time for serious waiting for the Christ Child, for the future the child promises is not only coming but also present in the life of the world if we can watch and wait patiently for it. It is not passive waiting, sitting around whiling away the time. Advent waiting is living into that future, leaning into it by praying, hoping, and working for the coming reign of God. (12/10/14, p. 3)
Walk the “royal mile of the spirit” in the next two weeks—with some planned deliberate intentionality. Make time for contemplation and practice “waiting.” Furthermore, invite others to walk with you—by challenge and example.
December 9, 2014