Why Advent Matters
Black Friday….Cyber Monday…making lists, great deals, buying and giving gifts. This is the time of year we focus on finding the perfect gift for family and friends. Yes, we in the Christian community often say, “Remember the reason for the season,” and remind ourselves that the reason we give gifts is because God gave His only Son. But it often takes quite an effort to stay grounded in why we celebrate this Holy Day.
We all have experienced getting swept up in the chaos and cacophony of the holiday season, suddenly sliding into the new year with a dissonant sense that we missed it all...the profound beauty, grace and generosity of Emmanuel, God with us.
What can help us slow down and avoid getting pulled into the vortex of commercial and societal celebrations that are often consumptive and draining? There are many practices and disciplines that can help us keep our gaze focused upon the Christmas star of wonder, but one of the most important for me is the celebration of Advent.
American writer and theologian Frederick Buechner says,
"Advent is like the hush in a theater just before the curtain rises. It is like the hazy ring around the winter moon that means the coming of snow which will turn the night to silver. Soon. But for the time being, our time, darkness is where we are."
The cycle of liturgical seasons in Christian churches begins with Advent, which started this past Sunday on Dec. 1. This holy season is characterized by waiting and preparing, and it begins four Sundays before Christmas, and ends on Christmas Eve. Traditionally observed as a "fast," it focuses on preparation for the coming of Christ, not only the coming of the Christ-child at Christmas, but also, in the first weeks, on the eschatological final coming of Christ, making Advent "a period for devout and joyful expectation.”
Waiting runs counter to the swirl of urgency around us during this season. My pastor, Rev. Robert Seawell, says it this way:
"Advent is the season of intentionally waiting, of preparing our hearts for perhaps a new birth of grace and truth. Waiting is such an important discipline to learn in so many areas of our life. Instantly getting the things we want or seek can lessen the actual beauty of receiving as well as take away the great joy that should accompany all moments of grace/giftedness. So it is with eagerness that I await the celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus the Christ."
The beauty of Advent is that it can be celebrated and practiced in all circles of life...in your personal devotions, family gatherings and traditions, as well as your church community. In the midst of shopping, decorating, baking and gift giving, you can intertwine and thread Advent scriptures, songs and rites with your family and friends.
Advent is practiced by liturgical churches like the Catholics, Anglicans, Lutheran and Methodists, but it’s a marvelous practice for all Christian believers. There are some great online resources on how to practice and celebrate Advent and here are just a few:
- "To Dance with God: Family Ritual & Community Celebration" by Gertrud Mueller Nelson
- Dan Wilt - Author, Artist, Musician and founder of WorshipTraining.
- Don Moen - Advent Video Series
- Robert Webber's Institute of Worship Studies - Advent Devotionals
I know there are many other ways to sidestep the commercial traps and keep Christ-centered during this holy season, and I would love to hear about your traditions and practices that help you, your family and church keep your hearts and eyes gazing upon the wonder and grace of God’s gift to us.
Share your ideas and practices in comments below.
(Written by Susan Fontaine Godwin. Originally posted on Christian Copyright Solutions. Used by permission.)Comment on Facebook Comment on Twitter
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