December 16, 2017

Why I Need Advent

So I set out Tuesday for a quick errand to find a book on the importance of Advent. How hard could that be? Four bookstores and two library branches later, I came home with one book of dubious value and one booklet with some good stuff.  (I also came home with a large diet chocolate Coke from Sonic bought during happy hour, but that really doesn’t come into play in this story.) I was quickly coming to the conclusion that I was the only one in my city who really cares about Advent.

Oh, there are plenty of books and such that have the word “Advent” on them. Books like How To Have A Stress-Free Advent and A Very Amish Advent were found next to the Star Wars Lego Advent calendar without looking too hard.

Ok, I know one person looking at a handful of stores does not indict an entire nation. Yet I find it hard to believe Advent is very important, leading me to wonder: Do we even know what Advent is any longer? Or is it that we know, but we are afraid to face the question it forces on each of us?

Advent was begun as a time of repentance and preparation leading up to Christmas, just as Lent is a time of repentance and preparation leading up to Easter.  And while Lent has become popular with the evangelical crowd (for “popular” read “fad” or “status symbol”), Advent is largely ignored. Or at least the “time of repentance and preparation” meaning of Advent. There are always the Advent TV specials that warm the heart, like Elf on the Shelf.

I’m not harping on the consumerism of Christmas. We are a nation of consumers, and nothing less. That includes Christians as well as Muslims, Druids and atheists. Even Baptists. My need for Advent is not to separate me from those who are spending their filthy lucre. After all, I work at a store where we bring in lots of lucre—clean and filthy alike. I have no problem with people spending money at Christmas to buy things they don’t need.

(Real conversation: A guest came up to me this week and said, “I need a Nintendo 3DS.” “Ma’am,” I said, “you don’t need a Nintendo 3DS. We only need food, shelter, clothing and the love of our families.” “Well,” she said, “this is for my daughter. If I don’t get it, there won’t be any love from the family.” “You’re right,” I said. “You do need a Nintendo 3DS.” See why I love my job?)

What I am having a problem with is the lack of focus on preparing for the coming Messiah. Instead of focusing on my sin and thus my need of a sacrifice I can’t make myself, I am told how to have a stress-free Christmas, how to “keep Jesus the reason for the season,” how I am to rise above materialism and remember baby Jesus in a manger. I hear lectures from Christians on how the real date for Christ’s birth, as figured out by scientists (I thought they were supposed to be evil. What? Oh, not when they support something we want to believe? Sorry. I forgot.), was September 11 and how Satan made something bad out of that date. Or how the star that stood still over Bethlehem was really the planet Jupiter. I hear messages on family and how to love and how to have hope in the midst of hard times. Messages that tell how I am to act so that Jesus can be put back at the center of Christmas.

What I don’t hear are messages on how we are trapped in our sin with no way out. How that there is none righteous, no, not one. How that centuries of men and women trying to be good has not produced one perfect person. I don’t hear how we are hopelessly condemned to a life apart from God and no amount of polishing our lives can make us acceptable to God.

Oswald Chambers comments on this in My Utmost For His Highest. For “holiness movements” substitute “Advent messages” and we have the same idea.

The holiness movements of today have none of the rugged reality of the New Testament about them. There is nothing about them that needs the death of Jesus Christ. All that is required is a pious atmosphere, prayer, and devotion. This type of experience is not supernatural nor miraculous. It did not cost the sufferings of God, nor is it stained with “the blood of the Lamb.” It is not marked or sealed by the Holy Spirit as being genuine, and it has no visual sign that causes people to exclaim with awe and wonder, “That is the work of God Almighty!” Yet the New Testament is about the work of God and nothing else. (November 29 devotional)

If Advent is not stained by the blood of the Lamb, then what is it for? And before I can rejoice in blood shed from the foundation of the world by the Lamb, I must see just how much I need that blood to be shed for me. I need Advent to tell me why Jesus had to die, and that he was born as a baby in order that he could grow to be a man who would be executed as a criminal.

Yet we have made Advent a time of ribbons and bows when it should be a time of weeping and wailing for our sinfulness. If I do not come to see my hopelessness before the Perfect Judge, with nothing to bring before him to buy even one minute’s pardon, then how can I rejoice with the shepherds that a Savior has been born this day in Bethlehem, the City of David?

There have been many Christmas mornings when one of my children or a friend will give me a present that I never dreamed I would get. A gift that takes me by surprise. Each Christmas I want the birth of Jesus to be a gift I never dreamed of, a present that takes me by surprise. If I sleepwalk through this season of Advent, dreaming of Rudolph and Frosty and a Red Ryder BB gun and one of those chocolates that looks like sections of an orange, then Christmas morning will come and the Son of God born to die for me will just be another entitlement. Give me! Give me! Give me! Is that all there is? Oh well, tomorrow I can go to the store to buy the things I really wanted.

Advent is not important just for Christmas day, but for all of our lives. Sister Joan Chittister recognized this as she prepared her Advent devotional:

Christmas is not meant to be simply a day of celebration; it is meant to be a month of contemplation. But because Advent has been lost somewhere between the Thanksgiving turkey and the pre-Christmas sales, we have lost one of the richest seasons of the year. Unless we can reclaim Advent, the lack of it will show dearly in the way we go through the rest of life itself.  (From Sparks Of Advent Light)

I’m not pointing fingers at the usual suspects here. I know there are large evangelical churches that do a great job preparing their congregations for the coming of the King, just as there are Lutheran and Presbyterian and Methodist and, yes, Catholic churches that preach “you better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why” sermons during this season. I’m really not pointing my finger at anyone but me right now. I am the one responsible for being the sinner that I am. And I am responsible for preparing my heart for the coming Messiah. If I wake up Christmas morning and yawn that once again it’s the day to celebrate the birth of the Christ, what time do the basketball games start?, well that’s my fault, not any one church or preacher or even the bookstores that don’t stock what I consider appropriate Advent books.

I need Advent because I want desperately to throw open the shutters on Christmas and shout, “A savior is born unto us this morning!” I want to sing and dance and clap my hands knowing I no longer have to try to be good enough. To know that a baby was born who would one day utter, “It is finished.”

So help me, iMonks. How do I prepare my heart thusly this season? What are some things you do or read or listen to that help you?

 

 

Comments

  1. Nice post, Jeff.

    My wife was telling her boss that she had to leave the office by 5:30 this evening (they talk to folks in India and sometimes work a bit late to accomodate that). She said she was going to a midweek Advent service at church. My wife told me that if she had told him that she was going to board a spacehip for Zortron she would not have received a more puzzled look.

    Anywho, that worship service this evening was just what the doctor ordered to slow me down and get me to wait on the Lord.

    Thanks.

    • Advent services are our prep too. And an advent wreath, though not as pretty as the one in the picture.

      We also maintain a strict prohibition on Christmas decorations, shopping, and music until Gaudete (third sunday, the pink candle). The kids get excited by that.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      My wife told me that if she had told him that she was going to board a spaceship for Zortron she would not have received a more puzzled look.

      Maybe she should have told him that instead?

  2. should have read ‘spaceship’…of course.

  3. I’ve never heard of an Advent book.

    Here’s a good advent blog:

    “Most of all, Advent is a time of longing.”

    http://incarnatusest.blogspot.com/2010/12/advent-longing-desire-and-romance.html

  4. This is the first year I’ve begun to look at Advent as something other than a month of getting hyped up for Christmas. I’m trying something that I haven’t done before: I found and printed out the daily lectionary readings (wow, Mozilla Firefox’s spellchecker doesn’t recognize lectionary as a word!), and I’ve been reading through them during morning and evening. So far they’ve all had that atmosphere of longing and lament.

    I’m also giving up sweets, which I anticipate will be a lot harder than daily Bible readings. Crying out to God for strength to withstand the craving for Christmas cookies really does teach one about one’s own weakness and vanity!

    • Matthäus says:

      I second this. If you are able to, the real traditional way to observe Advent is to fast, abstaining from meat (and maybe other things). My experience has been that preparing each meal or longing for meat becomes a reminder to prepare and long for the Lord’s coming. And I definitely think lectionary readings are the way to go.

    • That’s a great idea. Bringing a lenten type fast into Advent makes it more visceral.

  5. There are a few things our family does to signal and celebrate Advent.

    First, we talk it up. That’s really pretty easy because it is such a favored time of the year for our family. We start talking about Advent coming a few weeks out and by the time it arrives we are all rather excited about it.

    Second, we mark the time during Advent like many people do. We always have an Advent calendar usually with a little treat behind each window in it. We systematically read through a couple of Advent oriented books each day (my favorite is about the journey of Benjamin Bear in the Advent Storybook: 24 Stories to Share Before Christmas). We light Advent Candles placed in an Advent log rather than wreath (less mess) and always include the season in our family evening prayers. The lighting of the candles will typically start with something like, ‘we light this candle in recognition that Christ is the light of the world — a light which no darkness can overcome’ and conclude with a response: maranatha — even so, come Lord Jesus.

    Third, we decorate specifically for Advent. We have a family prayer spot that gets dressed up for Advent. Christmas gets its own decor.

    Fourth, we humbly ask family and loved ones to help us in our family priorities by not overwhelming us with gifts and such during the season. Part of an e-mail my wife sent out this year went as follows: “For us, this time marks the beginning of the year-long activity of participating in the dramatic re-enactment of the life of Christ. It is a time filled with wonder and an emphasis on simplicity and charity, in which the cares of the season focus us on those of our community in need….the oppressed, the lonely, the poor, homeless, sick, and marginalized. The desire is for the awareness of our own needs and desires to diminish as we think of the needs of the world, and the humility of Christ, being born among such as these. In light of the spirit of the season, our family has some ways in which we would like to observe and celebrate the meaning of Christmas, and we would like to invite those close to us to participate with us . . .”

    Our handling of the season is neither innovative or unique but marked by rather traditional Advent values and practices. But for me the beauty of Advent is in the simple practice of it.

  6. I belong to an online group of knitters and we are knitting our way through Advent, at the start of a Liturgical year of knitting and meditation. We had a Lent knit-along last year and all loved it so much, we are now fired up for the liturgical year ahead. It is run by a lovely girl in the USA who is also training at a seminary, and she provides the main Spiritual input. We also have a forum to share knitting tips and prayer requests (on different pages!!). Our meditations and prayers this week, as we knit the brim of our hat, have been about loss and grief. It is a wonderful way of making creative time away from the bustle, and preparing for the birth of the baby who became “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”.

  7. Get a copy of St Athanasius’ “On the Incarnation” (you can find it online for free…and there is an inexpensive Kindle version). Read slowly.

    FYI – I’ve got some Advent links at my blog…see recent posts and the “Church Year” page for more. (Check out the Advent carnivals from 2008, 2009 and 2010 for other bloggers.) (link in the sidebar here)

  8. We started last week spending Sunday evening with a couple, friends of ours, doing the advent wreath, lectionary readings for the day, and a short liturgy that can be found here:

    http://www.churchofengland.org/media/41152/tandsadvent.pdf

    Afterwards, we attended the “hanging of the green” at a local church. Next Sunday, we’ll attend “lessons and caroles” at another church after our liturgy time.

    Last week was a great time for us all. We all are hoping that this will become an annual tradition, just between us friends.

  9. DIET CHOCOLATE COKE??? YUCH!!!

    • I have never been to a Sonic. The restaurants of choice are In-N- Out Burger in California 😉 Culvers in Wisconsin, and 5 Guys in Washington, D.C. But in my mind nothing will beat In-N-Out and the Kohl’s coke falvored milk att he Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis!!! 😛

    • Oh Adrienne! That is ALL I could think of since reading those words. I’m not alone. What was the rest of the article about again?

  10. A quick pit stop into a quiet chapel whenever possible does wonders in centering the day.

    • I was thinking the same thing. Find some quiet and some solitude, whatever that takes and wherever that takes you. I haven’t yet found my favorite place, but I’ve thought about finding Catholic sanctuaries , or something “higher church”, that is open 24/7. Obviously: unplug from the world wide web and the tv.

  11. It seems like some who have wandered awhile in the Post-Evangelical Wilderness are turning to liturgy and the Church Year as aids or comforts in their wandering or as ways of [partly?] leaving the Wilderness or Evangelicalism.

    • Eric…I guess in some ways it makes sense. But no place is perfect and every theological system has its flaws. I’ve been learning more and more that agnosticism has its flaws.

      • One more Mike says:

        Eagle, you’re the most faithful agnostic I know and yes, that is a double entendre.

      • Eagle:

        Believe me when I tell you I’ve run the gamut – Jewish, New Age, mainline and non-denominational Protestant, Charismatic, Eastern Orthodox, house churches, authoritarian cult, liturgical, unstructured, etc. And you’re right, no place is perfect and every theological system has its flaws, including those Churches that claim to be the faithful preservers and transmitters of the Apostolic Tradition.

  12. Here’s a great Advent quote from Bonhoeffer ( within a very short Advent sermon from last night )

    http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/2011/12/01/a-great-advent-quote-from-bonhoeffer/

    Under 12 min. and well worth the listen.

    It might be something that yuo’d like to pass along to folks.

    .

  13. Well, I might as well provide the counter-point to this. I subscribe strongly to the Dark Helmet school of thought: “Why are you preparing, you’re always preparing. Just Go!”

    I actually think Christmas would be incredibly awesome if everything about it, both secular and religious, just struck out of the blue suddenly on Christmas morning. We go to bed with the house all normal and then suddenly on Christmas morning there’s a tree and decorations and presents and God’s coming into the world to save it. There are a whole lot of reasons that can’t happen of course. However, if I’m ever given a “wish” of some kind I’m wishing for Santa and everything associated with him to become real – except maybe the naughty list.

    Of course I fall really strongly into the category of people who generally prefer to keep all days the same. I don’t enjoy any holidays more intense than memorial day. It’s taken my family years to really accept that all I want for my birthday is to go out to eat and if they want to get me a card or small present I’m okay with it. Christmas is extremely hard on me. Easter isn’t too bad and I appreciate most of the holy-week activities because they are quite low-key, but I could never do lent. All the “preparation” for me simply increases my stress levels and usually the holiday doesn’t live up to the preparation.

    • When I was a little boy back in the mid-1940’s, that’s exactly how Christmas happened at my house. Up through Christmas Eve, nothing. Christmas morning, awaken to a tree, decorations, gifts.

      Of course, it was Santa who brought everything — so the message was a bit mixed, but I liked Christmas then better than the ways it’s done nowadays with six weeks or more of hammering by the merchants.

  14. The spiritual formation team from my church met a few weeks ago to plan Advent, and we began brainstorming a list of what themes Advent focuses on. It looked something like this:

    Awaiting Christ’s return to judge and renew the world. Walking with the Old Testament Jews through their exile and expectation and hope for a Messiah. Encountering the God who dwells in “clouds and thick darkness.” Preparing the way for God. Practicing confession and repentance. Solidarity with those who, like Jesus and his parents, are refugees, oppressed, poor, or in occupied countries. Big scary angels saying, “do not be afraid.” Being dangerously vulnerable before God; allowing the life of God to be conceived within us. “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness does not overcome it…”

    Then we sat back and said, “Woah. Advent is heavy stuff. No wonder we so often just skim the surface of this season.”

    • Great thoughts, and I agree. Most of what is in the bible, including and especially the christmas and pre-christmas stories, are not flannel-gram material, not really. But this gets back to the Lego-Bible thread: we like our messages more “friendly” and somewhat pre-digested. This is why the Bible, the real Bible, remains a very dangerous (to our naivette) book.

      GregR

  15. Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

    Two thoughts (well, maybe three… I’m a ministry student, not a math teacher):

    1) Lego Star Wars Advent Calender?!?!?! How have I *not* gotten this?

    2) It wasn’t until about two years ago that I actually realized that Advent and Christmas weren’t synonymous. How messed up is that?

    3) I find the readings and prayers for Advent in the Book of Common Prayer are really neat and really help drive that preparation time thing home. Especially in many of the readings, they seem to be driving home the point of why we need Jesus to come.

    • I wouldn’t mind going for the other Lego book that Chaplin Mike wrote about a few days back!! (Just kidding…) 😉

  16. My family also does an advent wreath. Each night before dinner we light the candle(s) and the kids each take a portion of the prayer that day. The highlight for the little ones is blowing out the candle(s).

    For me personally advent is a time to refocus. Yes, I know we should stay focused diligently throughout the year, but then life gets in the way. But I remember growing up how each day we reflected on how we did that day. Did we remember to say prayers? Did we do something nice without being asked? As I have gotten older I have kept that focus and expaned it a bit. I think about how I’ve gotten off track and renew my prayer life commitment. I try to pay closer attention to my interaction with others, family, friends and strangers alike. I try to find more quiet moments with God.

    In the past we have used advent calendars – I really love them… have to get back to that one.

    In my CCD program I’ve talked to the kids about how we look forward with anticipation for Jesus to come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and how we need always be ready, and look backwards and remember the hope and expectation that was felt for the coming Messiah. It seems each year a few more kids raise their hands when I ask who has an advent wreath at home.

    Oh, and by the way, I thought I had the corner on chocolate Coke (Coke or Pepsi, ice and a splash of chocolate milk – yummy) but then I seem to forget that Yoohoo has already been doing it for years.

  17. Advent soup dinners followed by an Advent service are a tradition in our congregation. They are usually quiet affairs, a simple supper followed by evening prayer using the the readings for the season of Advent..

  18. Yet we have made Advent a time of ribbons and bows when it should be a time of weeping and wailing for our sinfulness. If I do not come to see my hopelessness before the Perfect Judge, with nothing to bring before him to buy even one minute’s pardon, then how can I rejoice with the shepherds that a Savior has been born this day in Bethlehem, the City of David?

    —–

    Jeff, please promise us at the I-Monastery that you are not going to become a Hyper-Calvinist. Maybe it’s me but after hearing a Youtube video where Mark Driscoll is screaming how much God hates people, or John Piper moving every limb on his body at 50 mph in very intense animation…I can almost imagine either of those people saying what I cut and pasted above this comment.

    • Aidan Clevinger says:

      I think it’s possible to acknowledge doctrines like total depravity without becoming a Hyper Calvinist. I understand your concerns, though. I think where Driscoll and Piper go wrong is that they tend to see depravity as an end in itself, rather than as mere illumination on its converse: namely, the total grace of God in Christ.

    • No Eagle – it is a time for hope, expectation, anticipation and joyfulness and a time refocus on how we are treating others. This does not have to translate into how sinful we are. It is a time for reconnection with others (since some of us get a bit out of touch with duties of job and family).

      My hope is that you do incorporate what you have written below in this advent season, and spend time in the joy and love of others.

    • I had a similiar reaction as Eagle when I read that section of the post. Wailing over our sinfulness for the entire season of Advent. . . really!?! Does anyone truly think that ought to be an ideal for an ordinary person?

      It simply came across to me as a piece of unbelievable Evangelical melodrama. As a non-evangelical when I hear/read such things it really makes me question whether such language is designed to prey on the potential credulity of others.

    • “Yet we have made Advent a time of ribbons and bows when it should be a time of weeping and wailing for our sinfulness. If I do not come to see my hopelessness before the Perfect Judge, with nothing to bring before him to buy even one minute’s pardon, then how can I rejoice with the shepherds that a Savior has been born this day in Bethlehem, the City of David?”

      To a certain extent, this is true. Advent used to be (and is still called in some places) the Lesser Lent. It was a time of anticipation, but also of penance, prayer, almsgiving, and the like. Within the Eastern Orthodox Church (and possibly the Oriental Orthodox as well), this is still the case. Is there joy and anticipation? Yes. However, it follows the ancient pattern of fasting before you feast, so as to truly prepare one’s self for the celebration to come.

  19. Jeff….I would think the most important way to celebrate Advent would be to celebrate you loved ones and friends. To be grateful for children, to be grateful for whatever you have. Life is hard and sometimes stepping back and saying “thank you” even if it means a difficult job; well I guess one should appreciate that; over not having a job at all.

    • Agreed. One can repent without all the drama through simple actions to reorient one’s focus.

  20. My sister gave me an Advent wreath (in fact, it’s almost identical to the one in the picture) a few years ago, and I love it. It stays on the family dining room table for the whole season and I find the act of adding the candle each week along with the readings and the prayers really helps. I also have a daily devotional book that follows the Church calendar, which I’ve used a lot over the past two years. As a capper, I read Madeleine L’Engle’s book “The Irrational Season”, which has chapters centered around some of the major Church calendar events (Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, etc.).

    I’ve always been accused of being the weird one in my family, but for me Christmas and the Incarnation has always been a greater miracle than Easter. At the risk of sounding irreverent or flippant, rising from the dead is no less than I’d expect from a God Who did the sort of things God did in the Old Testament (miracles, plagues, etc.). But for that same eternal and holy God to deliberately limit Himself by becoming a flesh-and-blood human, to lower Himself to my level, just for the purpose of redeeming me from my sins — THAT’S awe-inspiring! And extremely humbling, to put it mildly.

    • Kerri in AK says:

      CJ – I can appreciate your perspective but I see it the other way! For Christmas, I go with the humbling experience of the incarnation (Wow; God has seen fit to take on our humanity when he didn’t have to…). It’s awe-some but in a more humble fashion. For Easter, it’s a heart-stopping, unimaginable JOY ( He is RISEN! Not dead and gone, but ALIVE and with us! ). So, for me, Advent observance involves feeling undeserving but humble and hopeful, whereas Lenten observance strips me of all superficiality and ego, particularly as Holy Week approaches with the passion and crucifixion imminent.

      Whichever way we want to approach these seasons doesn’t really matter as long as we keep our eyes turned toward Jesus and our hearts open to God’s fearsome love.

      • Kerin — actually, your wording is closer to what I was trying to say. Sometimes I type when I should think! 🙁 The Incarnation, though, for me is still the greater miracle, if miracles have degrees.

        • Oops — Kerri. See what I mean?

        • CJ-

          I can certainly understand what you mean. The more I’ve pondered, however, the more I’ve come to realize that the Incarnation and Resurrection- Christmas and Easter- and inseparably linked together. You have the God who takes on flesh, and the Man who raises that flesh back to God. Jesus becomes Man and lives in the flesh, and in the flesh defeats sin, Satan, and Death. Rising victoriously, He ascends to Heaven, forever raising humanity to highest heights.

          Everything is connected! 🙂

  21. I have been superfundamentalisticexpialidocious and I have held liberal views theologically over the course of my 70 years. I have been non-evangelical and evangelical and post-evangelical. I have been strongly anti-charismatic and strongly pro-charismatic and, yes, even charismatic. I have seen excesses and abuses, and I have seen sweet moves of the Holy Spirit not connected to tongues. I have worshiped with Calvinists and I have worshiped with Arminians. I have been pre-millenial and post-millennial and amillenial. I learned dispensationalism from the the notes in my Scofield KJV Bible, and I have rejected dispensationalism. The pew bibles in the church I currently attend is NRSV, the same NRSV that doesn’t say “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14. Either I “have been growing” and “on a journey” or I am one very confused puppy.

    Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

    I am a Christian. I don’t have all the answers, but I know the One Who does.

    A year ago I left a Pentecostal church and joined a Methodist church that is very similar to the church of my childhood (translation: not demanding the legalization of civil unions and the absolute right of a woman to choose an abortion, but proclaiming Jesus Christ as the Savior of the World and us as sinful and in need of that Savior, and participating in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, etc.)

    This year my wife and I are observing Advent for the very first time in our lives (I blogged about it here).
    The liturgy that many find so dead we find uplifting and inspiring, but I do wonder — somebody please tell me — how an annual re-enactment of the life of Christ came about and why it is necessary. The emphasis on preparation confuses me since Jesus is already here in the person of the Holy Spirit and we — a kingdom of priests — have immediate access to Him through prayer. Why do we pretend that we are waiting for Him when He has been here for 2,000 years now and we have instant access to Him through the indwelling Holy Spirit?

    I appreciate the beauty and the solemnity of the liturgy, but I don’t worship the liturgy. I worship God and I talk to Him each day. I confess my sins to Him and He forgives me. Waiting for Him through Advent or being sorrowful for 40 days before Easter seem to me to short-circuit the privilege of living of the Christian life each day always.

    But I agree with Jeff, too. I need Advent.

    What am I missing here? Somebody please enlighten me.

    • Matthäus says:

      It is true that he is present with us, but he is present with us like the rest of Heaven is—real and present, but at the same time hidden. A day is coming when that “veil” hiding Heaven will be pulled away, which is what we long and prepare for. N.T. Wright has some interesting thoughts on this in Suprised by Hope and Acts for Everyone.

      I think it is also important to remember that, even during the lenten seasons of Advent and Lent, each and every Sunday is a celebration of the Resurrection, and there are other feasts to celebrate in each, like St. Nicholas’s Day or the Annunciation. It isn’t designed to be all sorrow all the time.

    • Advent (meaning approach or coming near) is not for pretending anything. It is a season of anticipation and preparation with regard to a variety of ways that the Lord draws near to us.

      First, Advent is an eschatologically oriented season. In it we look forward with hope to the second coming of our Lord when he will set everything right and renew his world. We anticipate that time when he will deliver us finally and fully from the world of sin, the flesh, and the devil.

      Second, Advent is a sacramentally oriented season. In it we attend to the ways that Christ comes to us now in the gospel message. As such we prepare to submit our lives to the lordship of Jesus and the reception of the acceptance and forgiveness he holds out to us. We meet Christ in the pastoral ministry of his Church in the words of pardon and blessing, in corporate prayer, the pouring out of the Spirit in baptism, in a communion consisting of bread and wine etc.

      Third, Advent is a social justice oriented season. In it, as we attend to Christ through various religious practices and sacramental rites, we also meet his arrival in the provisions of charity and acts of love toward one another and in the presence of the stranger, the hungry, the needy in our midst.

      Lastly, Advent is a celebrative season. In it we also await the celebration of Christmas of his first coming, looking back in faith to the mighty acts God has already done.

      Advent reminds us that we are living between the times in the now and not yet. We know our Lord as the Incarnate One in whom all God’s promises for humanity are ‘yes’ and ‘amen.’ In him those promises have already been inaugurated, seen fulfillment and anticipate full consumation.

    • I have nothing wise to say at this point in my life. But ‘superfundamentalisticexpialidocious’? Holy cow, that’s marvellous.

  22. Our Advent Series on the air (Broken Road Radio) features Doug Greenwold, with whom we learn the historic and cultural context of the times leading up to the birth of Christ. I now consider the season to be more one of anticipation than repentance (most of us understand the word “repentance” in too small a way, anyhow). Once you have a grasp of the political and cultural conditions that existed then and there, the events of Advent become much more tangible and the whole story that much more miraculous. We begin with Elizabeth and Zechariah ….

    Within that framework, the joy becomes palpable. It is a season of JOY, first and foremost.

  23. I’m observing Advent for the first time as an adult (my spiritual path is/has been, um….twisty) and a friend and I are using two books, Christmastide by Phyllis Tickle, which is a book of prayers in the daily office and Run Shepherds Fun, which is a book of poems for Advent. The Daily Office is an experiment for me — we’re hoping to continue throughout the year — particularly in terms of perfectionism (I can’t, for example, find a way to do the midday office because of my job) but is so far pushing me towards faith in new ways. I like the book of poems as well — it’s helps me engage concepts that I still have resistance to approaching spiritually or religiously because it engages another part of my brain. Also, poetry is pretty

    I”m also doing an Advent wreath and an Advent calendar. The latter because it was just cute. Sometimes, my justifications are not all that deep.

    • Danielle79 says:

      I just looked up Phyllis Tickle’s book. I have been trying to find something like this, so I may give it a try. Thanks for mentioning the title!

  24. I’m not part of a liturgical church, I’m a Quaker. So I do the season of Advent alone. My Friends at meeting can understand the spiritual experiences I’m talking about, but we don’t tie them to a season. Yet, my experience is that certain longings keep coming up in my heart as the light is waning in December.

    During Advent I play my album with Gregorian chants. I read Isaiah, or a minor prophet. I seem to write a bit more than at other times of the year.

  25. LOVE this post!

    We have 2.5 small children, and I realized this year that the only Christmas message they have in their young hearts is SANTA! (Personally, we would not do the “Santa thing” if it were up to me, but I submit to my husband, and that’s a post for another day.) I was stewing in this reality for weeks when it occurred to me (or rather, it got through to me, from a supernatural source) that, while I might not be able to do anything about our commercial Christmas, I can take my children through a meaningful Advent season. So I’ve been doing my research so that I can manufacture a meaningful Advent calendar to start to use next year. I’m going to make a book with scripture and prayers and history that corresponds with a handmade calendar. (Yes, I like to see how hard I can make it on myself.) We’ve tried the children’s books, just reading scripture, fancy talking Advent ornaments… My kids don’t process any of it. However, my theme approach to homeschooling is effective, so I will carry that over to my Advent “curriculum.” I’m very excited because, besides planning a great family time of spiritual togetherness (yes, I realize how corny that sounds), I’m learning so much about the true meaning and purpose of Advent!