Advent. It’s not a word that I grew up with in the Christmas season. Deck the Halls, Santa Clause, Christmas cookies and lots of goodies – that’s what I’m familiar with at this time of the year.
Advent was always something that other churches did. I never knew exactly what it was, except that they had special candles for the occasion.
I’ve learned that there are many ways to celebrate it–special Sunday worship services, calendars with daily readings, ornaments representing Bible stories. They all have to do with preparing the heart and mind for the coming of Christ—that he came once, and he will come again. It’s a season of anticipation, which is what advent means—the coming or arrival of someone or something anticipated.
I’ll confess that when I was growing up most of my anticipation at Christmastime had to do with gifts under the Christmas tree, family time and traditional foods. My anticipation had very little to do with celebrating the coming of the Messiah or longing for his second coming.
So this year, for the first time, our family is incorporating Advent into our holiday rhythm. We are following a daily devotional book by Richard Rohr,“Preparing for Christmas, Daily Meditations for Advent”. We light the candles each evening and read the scriptures and reflections as part of our evening mealtime this month.
Rohr describes Advent as an invitation “beyond a merely sentimental understanding of Christmas as ‘waiting for the baby Jesus’ to an adult and social appreciation of the message of the Incarnation of God in Christ.” It seems to be a combination of looking back and looking ahead. Looking back to remember how God has already shown up, and looking ahead in trust and hope that he will indeed come again.
I’m already enjoying this practice of looking back and looking forward. It helps me not to feel buried in the hectic now. It’s a refreshing new dimension to our holiday season.
What about you? I know that many of you have celebrated Advent for years. How have you celebrated it together? How has it been meaningful for your family?