By Ann Boyd

Advent 2020: Five Seconds of Peace

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I am eagerly anticipating Advent 2020.

I acknowledge that 2020 has been a challenging year. (“That’s an understatement.”) We’re experiencing separation from our families; we are at risk of severe illness; we have lost jobs. Our children are engaging in alternative-reality school, our elderly parents are lonely, and our personal space is at a premium. College professors and teachers everywhere have been expected to instantly master the art of teaching remotely — or with space-age contagion precautions. In the US, we’re in the middle of a racial reckoning, a contentious election experience, historic wildfires, and a global pandemic. So why should I be enthusiastic about Advent?

I’m approaching Advent with a sense of hopeful expectation because God is in the business of redeeming terrible circumstances. We have seen this in the Exodus, and in Jesus’s work on the cross, and in Paul’s Damascus Road experience. The season of Advent celebrates the experience of waiting for God’s transforming presence.

I do not think Advent will be easy this year — not the usual twinkle lights and hot cocoa and quiet moments in a soft armchair. Advent 2020 will take place against a backdrop of many-hued sufferings. We will need to dig into our deepest, most robust inner resources to forge connections over distances, revise and reassess traditions, and overcome loneliness — all the while serving our communities and engaging in our civic duties … and keeping up with our jobs and kids’ school. It will be a lot, and we at The Well would like to support you. 

Advent begins on Sunday, November 29, 2020 — the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend. In past years, we have invited readers of The Well to join us in a practice of Five Minutes of Peace during this season. This year, acknowledging the challenging circumstances we find ourselves in, we invite you to something slightly different: Five Seconds of Peace.

We ourselves are daughters, mothers, aunts, wives, friends, neighbors, teachers, and researchers. We know that in these days particularly, our time is limited. Perhaps you can find five minutes (or more!) for spiritual reflection — and if so, we rejoice with you and bless you! But if finding time for quiet is difficult, we want to help reframe the goal. It’s not about the time spent; it is about the connection with God. If he can feed thousands with five loaves and two fish, then he can take your five seconds of prayer and infuse you with his loving presence.

Some of us have been appreciating the form of prayer called “breath prayer” throughout the pandemic. You can read more about it, but we’ll describe it like this: 

Pray a short phrase while breathing — one half on an inhale, and one half on an exhale. Repeat as needed.

We’ve compiled eight Advent-themed breath prayers from the Scriptures that tell the story of Immanuel, God with us, which we will share over the weeks of Advent. To offer a sense of direction, here is the first one, coming out of Isaiah 9:2:

Inhale: In the darkness
Exhale: Show your light.

We hope these prayers make way for you to both grow in awareness of God’s presence with you and to prepare your own heart for the celebration of his birth, even through the challenging circumstances of these days.

Ready to join us? Sign up here and let us walk you through a few guidelines.

Here is what Five Seconds of Peace entails:

  • Stop in your tracks.
  • Practice one breath prayer.
  • Begin this practice on the first day of Advent: November 29, 2020
  • Sign up to receive a friendly email and a pdf with breath prayers.
  • If you'd like, post a photo from your Five Seconds of Peace practice on your Instagram page with the tag #fivesecondsofpeace

Here is what Five Seconds of Peace does not involve:

  • Guilt if you miss a day or begin after November 29.
  • Special equipment.
  • Reading or listening to something assigned.

Here is what Five Seconds of Peace might look like:

  • Pausing while looking out the window
  • Saying a breath prayer between grading essays
  • Praying while stirring the soup
  • A prayer while holding a child or a cat
  • Praying while washing your hands.
  • Setting a phone alarm for a moment, or three, during your day to remind you that God is with you, and pause for a moment of prayer.

May the Lord transform you through his Spirit this Advent season!


Photo by Macro Mama from StockSnap.
About the Author

Ann is the Women Scholars and Professionals Podcast host and the interim editor for The Well. She has worked for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship since 1997, exploring her interests in community, spiritual formation, and writing. Ann has a BM in Music Education from Northwestern University and lives in Chicago, Illinois with one husband, two spunky teenage daughters, and three snuggly cats. You’ll often find Ann baking sweet treats in the kitchen while listening to a podcast or audiobook.

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