In London, by 3pm, the sky turns dark and sullen. From a second story perch at my writing desk, I glimpse windows turning golden; the glow of lamplight illuminating interior rooms from a row of terrace houses behind us. Moments earlier, those same windows were like framed mirrors, reflecting outlines of bricks, mortar, roof tiles and chimneys.

“Hel-looow,” my son bellows from below, in a deep, playful voice while waltzing through the front door from school and clanking the lock back into place.

“Hi Honey, I’m up in my office,” I call out, then spiral down thirty-two steps while balancing a coffee mug with my thumb and forefinger. “How was your day at school?”

“Good,” Harrison says when I meet him in the kitchen in wool coat over a navy suit, scarf tied around his neck. He is standing in front of the open pantry, surveying snacks and debating options.

A few moments later, we move to the living room, sit in twin armchairs, share a footstool in socked feet and scroll  our phones in silence. He is in his last year of school before transitioning to university and rarely wants to talk feelings or divulge details. His only agenda is to unwind, and my only agenda is being with him.

Later, at the dinner table, candles blaze, and between bites of turkey and mashed potatoes, he’ll enlighten his Dad and I from what he’s learning. And I’ll be thankful for the open window into his world.

Is doing nothing with my son a waste of time?

I can easily become focused on doing good things for Harrison – cooking, ironing, cleaning, shopping – and miss the value of simply being with him.

During Advent, we can do a lot of things for Jesus and miss the gift of encountering his presence.

Is there any more meaningful present than being in the presence of God?

Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other.  Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky. Psalm 85: 10-13

Wasting time with Jesus may be the most productive thing we do this Advent.  

Because we need steadfast love and faithfulness as consolation for the void left by disappointment.

We need assurance that righteousness and peace aren’t only topics written about in history books.

We need to know that the wilderness we walk upon will be faithful to bloom again; that we are seen by a loving God when our pain seems invisible to those in our spheres of influence.

Jesus longs to be with you, not because of what you do for him but because he loves you.

How will you waste time with him during the second week of Advent?

Lord, help me to love you more than the answers I seek for requests. Teach me how to be still and listen when I am prone to fill emptiness with chatter. May my only agenda be discerning your still small voice. For it is in filling up with your love in times of stillness that my capacity to give love away increases. Help me to find contentment in being over doing. Admittedly, I want authority without intimacy, power without pondering Truth, and relationship without practicing Presence. I long for our love to deepen but my actions say something else. Forgive me. As I move out into the world, lead me to the places and people that need Presence more than presents this Christmas. May my prayers be like lanterns lighting up the darkness with hope.

Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms;he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. Isaiah 40:10-11

Our Advent conversation continues this Friday in the Sabbath Society letter. Join the community here and receive my weekly epistle quietly into your inbox every Friday morning at 6am EST. For further information about how to make Christmas more restful and less stressful begin here with the introduction and details about the series.

Recommended Resources for a Meaningful Advent

The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year by Kimberlee Conway Ireton

I re-read Kimberlee’s book throughout the year to remember the meaning in each of the sacred seasons we celebrate as Christians. Her chapters about Advent and Christmas are highly recommend reading.

The Diary of Private Prayer by John Bailie

I’ve recommended this book before but it’s still one of my favorites. I return to it often and give copies away as gifts. Updated and revised by my dear friend Susanna Wright, the prayers are perfect to ponder during a penitent season like Advent.

God is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I just discovered this gem of a book. The readings are short but deep and rich. I may be returning to this one during the ordinary days too. No matter what day you start the book, it’s worth the read.

Twenty Inspiring Hashtags for December by Makelight

Makelight is one of my favorite places to find inspiration for Instagram posts. You can find more of my London Christmas photos @shellymillerwriter on Instagram. And also, we’ve had snow!! Follow me here.