Like many of you, I am not one who gets excited when I see retailers converting their stores from Halloween to Christmas, I rather groan with despair over the consumeristic purpose of it all. I find it overwhelming and I feel myself longing for a more gentle, simpler and intentional embrace of the season of Advent.
“Then Jen why are you raising this issue mid-November when Advent does not begin for a few weeks?” Well I was wondering , if instead of getting grumpy about the “Christmas creep” we all begin thinking about how we will choose to mark the season of Advent when inevitably the trees, lights and peppermint mochas appear early in the fall?
Advent, as we have learned, is the beginning of the Christian Year, like January is for the Gregorian calendar. The church learned a long time ago that people can walk right through the great mysteries of the church year, Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost, without even noticing and experiencing their meaning and purpose. The church created times for us to get ready, the seasons of Advent and Lent.
This time of year can quickly become for many, a time of stress: “to-do lists,” spending and worrying and self-imposed expectations. It can also be a time of anxiety and loneliness and a heightened awareness of the disparity in this world of ours. As those who follow the one known as the light of the world, we are called to live counter-culturally.
I wonder how you are planning to embrace the season of Advent? I wonder what your advent rituals will be this year? How will you create space in your life to anticipate, to prepare for the celebration of Love born to us through Christ?
I was talking with some friends and one is planning to take a break from social media for the season of Advent, another is planning to not enter a mall (except for grocery and drug stores), another is presenting the idea to friends and family of giving the gift of time not things and taking the money that they would normally spend on gifts and sponsor a child to attend school in Guatemala. I have even heard of someone through the wider church who is planning on giving up electricity for the season of Advent, to simplify their lives and to focus on time together. An advent ritual helps us in recognizing the presence of the Holy and to be attentive to God’s spirit.
None of this is new to any of you but I wonder if, in our sharing, we might inspire and support one another to transform this time of year into a meaningful, spirit-filled time in our lives.
It just so happens, that we as a church have also made the decision that we need more time to prepare for this Holy Season so we are beginning Advent a week earlier. Sunday, November 26 will be the 1st Sunday of Advent. Following worship we will have an Advent Event in the sanctuary, including a light lunch and some Advent traditions of creating an Advent wreath, singing, creating an ornament and more. Dan and Gary have purchased an Advent Household Resource from the United Church of Christ that you are invited to use (buy your copy from Edgar in the Narthex or in the Office). And this Saturday, November 18 at 4pm Eat Play Love, our multi-age worship experience will be exploring the theme of preparing for the season of Advent.
Come and join us as we explore some more ways of pausing and preparing to welcome this season with love and hope, peace and joy, instead of dread and despair!
Looking forward to hearing from you and your traditions, rituals, and plans!
p.s. One of my favorite books in celebrating Advent and preparing for Christmas is Alternatives’ Simplify & Celebrate: Embracing the Soul of Christmas by Northstone Publishing Inc, 1997