Wow! It’s the 4th week of Advent. As we move towards Christmas, we are invited to read, pray, reflect, and act (continuing the thread from earlier). These four steps can help us during Advent as well as anytime we need to tuneup our spiritual life.

To reflect or to be reflective means to think quietly and calmly. Sometimes this is understood as a mode of being, a kind of disposition. However, we can also be more deliberative in reflecting especially when we are reflecting with a view towards discerning God’s activity in our lives and making a choice about how we want to be in the world. A particular way of doing this is “theological reflection.”

Theological reflection is an intentional choice to engage seriously with a particular idea or issue using a variety of approaches that begin with one’s experience and integrates it with scripture, the wisdom of the church, an awareness of the community and world we live in, and the stories of our lives. It is a kind of discernment that enlightens and gives meaning to how we live and approach events, challenges, ideas, topics, etc. in our life. The aim is not dogmatic statements but conversion, that is, transformation of heart.

Here is an example of steps that one might take in theological reflection, keeping in mind that prayer is a given throughout this process:

  1. Name the experience: chose the event, challenge, idea or topic
  2. Explore the experience: find another layer to the event by looking at how you felt about the event, what was startling or surprising, how other people are involved
  3. Dig deeper: expand your thinking by considering what values are at stake, emerging, in conflict, etc.
  4. Make faith connections: discover how God at work in this event by asking yourself how God is present in the event for yourself and others, what scripture passages or church custom or faith story comes to mind, etc.
  5. Articulate your learnings: what questions still linger, what did you discover about yourself and God and others, what has changed, what will you do going forward, etc.

(based on Reflecting with God: Connecting Faith and Daily Life in Small Groups by Abigail Johnson)

What other tips do you have for engaging in theological reflection? What works or not so much?