I like to wear jeans with holes in the knees to church. I also like to slip my sandals off, in a gesture of standing on hallowed ground, when I raise my hands in worship. Sometimes I feel compelled to kneel even when everyone is standing. God blessed us to be free in worship of the only wise king; to abandon our social binds like David when he danced in the street before the arc of the covenant.
As I have gotten older, I have felt a new hunger for something Holy. Set apart. Special. Something with ritual just to show how very other God is. I am so glad that we are free in Christ, no longer bound by pharisaical customs, but I am learning about a kind of majesty to be found in another way to approach God. This is not new, though. It’s really so very ancient and that is part of the beauty of it. I am talking about the liturgical calendar but, more specifically, I mean Advent.
I went to public school most of my life but the years that I did go to private school ingrained me with a certain amount of prejudice toward Catholics and ritualistic church traditions. As a result, I didn’t learn anything of the ancient customs of Lent or Advent or Epiphany. I knew nothing of the liturgical calendar. But when I moved back east, I fell in with such a wise and well-read group of believers who celebrated these holy and ancient traditions.
I learned about the meaning of Advent. It means literally to get ready. Since the kids and I are learning latin I will give it to you this way:
visit, appearance, advent
In celebrating Christmas this way we are preparing ourselves quietly for the coming of the Christ child. Get ready, he is coming. Advent is to quiet our souls, to slow down, to reject the hustle of our nation in a holiday made commercial. Advent is to refrain and wait. To search out and to preserve the sacred. Christmas, for us, is no longer a time of overeating, overspending, overdecorating, overextending. Christmas, for us, doesn’t even start until Christmas Eve. That is when the twelve days of Christmas begins. Christ has come, it’s party time.
Advent is the four weeks preceding Christmas. Every Sunday marks the beginning of a new way to look at and celebrate Christ. Last week, we lit our first candle and celebrated Christ the seed. The seed of Abraham who would come through a royal line and be the savior of us all. We planted paper white bulbs to wait and see. We watch our seeds for signs of life. We wait for the first shoots of green just as we symbolically wait for the arrival of the baby king. Jameson likes to visit our little bulbs in the morning and say, “Hey little guys!”
We dried oranges in the oven and made garlands of popcorn, oranges and cranberries. We learned a Christmas song together and listened to an old advent hymn.
We lit the first of four candles in our advent wreath and prayed. We pondered Jesus the seed. And we didn’t go nuts trying to create a Pinterest moment. It was homely and homey and peaceful.
This week we celebrate Jesus the Star. When God showed Abraham that he was to produce the seed of our salvation he showed him by asking him to look at the stars. And behold, it was a star which lit the way to the Christ child who, in fact, was a star himself. The Bright and Morning Star.
We will be gathering sticks and twine to make stars this week. They will probably be ugly. I’ll share them on instagram.
We will do some copywork with words from O Holy Night and we will recite the catechism. Then, if all goes well we will make ginger cookies.
Next week will be Jesus the Scepter, then the final week will be Jesus the Savior.
We are pondering. We are preparing. We are quiet. No. Scratch that. We are never quiet. But we are quieting our hearts as much as a family of seven can. Get ready! He is coming.
Want to know more about Advent?
Check out these links:
Tsh Oxenreider of The Art of Simple
has a great podcast regarding the liturgical calendar
We are using this ebook/curriculum this year from Jennifer Naraki: SLOW + SACRED
If you do nothing else, then listen to this stunning podcast of Sally Clarkson’s.
The guest speaker is an Oxford Professor and I cannot even tell you how much I loved this episode without getting emotional. Sally also has other links for books and music for the Advent season.
Do hard things.