It's almost here!
Tomorrow is the first day of Advent, and I have been waiting for this moment for almost two months. No, actually, more like eleven and a half months.... I love Advent.
Some of my best childhood memories are centered around Advent. Decorating the banisters of our New England church sanctuary with real evergreens and red ribbons and candles and a Christmas tree so tall you could barely see the top from the floor. Replacing the green banners of Ordinary Time on the pulpit with the rich purple hues of Advent. Taking a break for soup and crackers with the church family, and eating out of the church's fine china dishes. (Washing and drying all those dishes after lunch!) Making wreaths to take home and hang on our doors. Waking up every morning to open the next little door on the Advent calendar that hung on the cabinet in the kitchen. Watching the colored lights twinkle in our tree. Setting up the Nativity scene on the bookshelf. Putting out our Christmas decorations. Listening to Kenny and Dolly and Amy Grant and Alabama and Bing Crosby and Manheim Steamroller and countless others sing Christmas carols, back in the days when we had actual records and cassette tapes. Wrapping Christmas presents. Popping popcorn and watching Christmas movies. Lighting a candle every Sunday on the altar at church, marking one more theme celebrated, one week closer to Christmas. Wondering why the third candle is pink.
And FINALLY - Christmas Eve. Dressing up, leaving home in the dark. Caroling outside the church for an hour before service for the people passing by and coming to church. Caroling some more indoors. The beauty of the Christmas story read aloud. Hearing a soloist sing "O Holy Night" and hoping that someday I'd get to sing it (one day, finally, I did). Lighting the Christ candle, and then passing the light of Christ's love from candle to candle through our historic church sanctuary and singing Silent Night together acapella. Watching the familiar faces of friends and family shine with the mystery and beauty of it all as we ended our service in quietness, peace, and candlelit wonder.
And now that I'm older, this season has become even more special than the magical memories it held in my childhood. For now I understand, in a way I didn't then, what this season is really all about.
Advent is a season of waiting. A season of joy, hope, peace, love, wonder - and waiting, expectantly, for something to happen. It's the pathway, the journey to Christmas. And with Christmas, comes radiant, amazing, overwhelming love - in the form of a baby boy, born in a stable. The very Son of God, laid in a manger, here to experience all that we do - and to make a way back to God for us.
God waited a long time to send His Son. He waited for the perfect moment. But while He was waiting, He did some things. He wrote it in the stars, that this baby was coming. Remember the Magi, following that star? Think about the fact that light takes time to travel, and that what you see in the sky is actually something that happened a really, really, REALLY long time ago - and think for a moment: God put a star in the heavens that would point the way to His Son AGES before His Son would be born. Does the wonder of it floor you, even just a little bit? He also promised us that a Saviour would come - His prophets foretold His coming, and His people waited, too. And then, finally - He came. And He is coming again.
For these four weeks of Advent we wait. We remember. We hope, dream, imagine, wonder, experience the mystery that is the gift of God's Son, born in the city of David: Christ the Lord. We sing special songs - songs we sing once a year. We celebrate. We give gifts that echo, tho they could never compare with, the Gift that we've been given. We light candles.
We wait. Quietly, but with great joy.
Last year for Advent, my friend Amanda and I did a devotional study together with a book and a website called The Uncluttered Heart, by Beth A. Richardson. We loved it so much that we've invited our church family to go through it with us this year. Nineteen people have signed up so far! We are super-excited about this. :)
And if you want to join us, we'd love that, too. The Uncluttered Heart website has all the info you need to get started.
Hope to see you there!
and Happy Advent-Eve. :)