Welcome to our Advent retreat ‘Messengers of Joy’. The word ‘Advent’ is taken from the Latin word ‘adventus’, which means ‘coming’. Advent gives us an opportunity to take time out as we wait in joyful expectation for the coming of Jesus, who is Emmanuel, God with us. The coming of God into the world as a child reminds us of one of the real treasures of our faith: joy. The season of Advent offers an opportunity to take a step back from the busyness of life, to slow down, to wait and ponder, so that we can enter joyfully into the mystery of Christmas, a special time of celebration and rejoicing for all Christians.
To guide our prayer this Advent, we will reflect on some familiar moments in the Christmas story, using scripture narrative from the book of Isaiah and the Gospel of Luke. During this time of waiting, we are invited to spend time in prayer and reflection, contemplating more deeply the mystery of Christmas so that we are really ready for the arrival of Jesus into our lives. We wait expectantly with all God’s people for the coming of Christ. We wait especially with those who played a role in his coming – Isaiah, Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, and the shepherds – noticing how the joyful message of the coming of Jesus was first revealed.
Isaiah’s prophecy about the birth of Jesus was a foretelling of great joy. It revealed God’s plan from Old Testament times to send a Messiah into the world. The angel of the Lord who appeared to Zechariah also came with a message of joy, announcing that many would rejoice at the birth of John the Baptist, the one who would prepare the way for the Lord.
Indeed John the Baptist himself, even as a child in the womb, expressed great joy when Mary visited his mother Elizabeth. And once again, when Mary herself gave birth to the Savior, it was as “good news of great joy” that the angels announced it to the shepherds.
It is through hearing these stories afresh that we may be able to experience what it is to be a 'messenger of joy' in this season of preparation. As we begin this retreat, you might like to examine your own thoughts and feelings surrounding this theme of joy. Do you feel joyful about the coming celebrations of the birth of Christ? Or are busyness and seasonal stress overshadowing your life at the moment...? This Advent, we invite you to discover anew the joy of Christ that was spread through these remarkable men and women that first Christmas.
We start with some practical suggestions that might help you if you haven’t made a retreat like this before, or act as reminders if you have. There are four sessions in the retreat. We suggest that you could reflect on one session for each week of Advent. The first thing to consider is: how long do you feel that you are able to devote to each session of the retreat? It’s good to decide this in advance, and to try and spend the same amount of time on each reflection. The material presented in each session lasts about fifteen to twenty minutes, but you might want to take more time than this to prepare yourself, or to revisit ideas that arise from the retreat throughout the day.