I love Advent. I mean, clearly – I love it enough to name my child after it – Addi is short for Advent. Advent is my favorite season of the church year, hands down. The name Advent shares the Latin root adventus meaning “a coming, approach, or arrival.” It’s part of the word “adventure” – which I love! Advent is the four Sundays before Christmas Day – not just the first 24 days of December. In a way, Advent wreaths are more accurate timekeepers than Advent calendars, although I am a fan of both. More about that in a minute.
Advent is the season of “already/not yet”: Christ has already come/Christ has not yet returned. I am a believer/God help my unbelief (see Mark 9). I am a complete human as I am/I am still learning to be fully human. Advent carries the weight of the end times balanced with the hope of the Kingdom of God. Consequently, it is a season of penitence and introspection, a time for prayer and silence, and a time of thinking through what the Church is, and what it will become. That’s why we light candles, and read about John the Baptist, and focus on confession and spiritual growth. We remember Christ coming as a vulnerable baby, and hope for the coming of Christ the Prince of Peace.
Advent gets really lost in the shuffle of seasonal chaos – the ridiculously early arrival of Christmas crap in all the stores even before Halloween, and the commercialism of toys and santa and stuff, the intensity of parties and food and beverages and even having to pretend to like your Aunt Betty – it can all seem pretty insane. That being said, I really do love the pre-Christmas insanity TOO. Maybe not the commercialism, but the get-togethers and the singing and the celebrating and the gift-giving (and the cookies) are a heart-warming oasis of joy in a dark season, especially for an extrovert like me. So how do you keep Advent sacred? How do you not live like a hermit yelling BAH CHRISTMAS and NO MESSIAH UNTIL AT LEAST DECEMBER!
Well, here’s what I do: In our house, the dining room is Advent territory. That’s where we keep the Advent wreath, and the Advent calendars, (yes, I have more than one). There are no Christmas lights or baubles or jingles. I even painted the room blue. Every night we light the Advent wreath and say a prayer together. (Here’s a nice example from the Episcopalians).
Another way to keep the adventure in Advent (see what I did there…), is to find a daily devotional, like this one, which is available at church for YOU!:
Regardless of what you do, I pray that you will have an illuminating and expressive Advent, leading to a joyous twelve days of Christmas. Don’t forget – it lasts until January 6, with the coming of the Magi on Epiphany.
Love, Pastor G