At RevGals, MaryBeth writes: This time of year can be so busy with planning for Advent and Christmas, for those who work in churches and we who live close to them. Today, I invite you to sit quietly…as Mary sits in this phot…and consider five things about Advent. They might be images, practices, hymns, anything you like. Just let the thoughts wash over you. Be peaceful with them. Be blessed with them.
My love for Advent is steeped in the family traditions of my youth. Annual outings, rituals, the inner warmth of our home protected from the growing darkness and cold of winter all gave a glow to the season. Church rituals have been less meaningful for me, perhaps because I inherited practices already in place at churches I served, and where those communities didn't feel inclined to revisit those choices. (Let me say that there wasn't anything wrong with them, but shaping them to add meaning for me wasn't an option).
So, five things...
1) Sharing. Whether it was the creation of the family Christmas card, writing the family letter, helping mom with her homemade goodies of toffee and spiced tea, or singing Christmas carols outside the homes of friends, we spent family time engaged in activities that connected us to other people.
2) As an maturing Christian who shifted from Quaker to Episcopalian in my late twenties, Advent hymns became precious to me. I especially loved hearing them played from the carillon of the chapel at the college just up the hill from my first home.
3) The Advent calendar. I don't remember the practice of using a calendar being a spiritual one, but it nonetheless instilled an awareness that we were in a season of marking a journey, and waiting with anticipation. This annual ritual made it so much easier to live into the spiritual practice of waiting when my faith began to bloom.
5) Decorations. My mother chose a seasonal theme each year as a way to focus the decorations of our home. The ones that stand out in my memory are the Magi, Peace, Joy, music, and the Twelve Days of Christmas. Except, perhaps, for the "12 days," these themes emphasized the spirit of the season, instilling in me an abiding appreciation in my bones for the depth and meaning of what I would come to know as the Incarnation. Little did she know that she was planting seeds...