An advertisement for the Holiday Boston Pops concert at symphony hall asked the question, “how do you prepare for the most wonderful time of the year?” It is a good question, a question the church has an answer for: the season of Advent.
Perhaps more than any other time of the year, the four weeks that precede Christmas are a time when the church has much to share with those who step into her doors. She invites us into the spiritual refreshment and direction given to us in the prayers, readings, music and the rich colors of advent worship.
The Advent season falls at the darkest time of the year, the symbols of darkness and light are powerfully at work in Advent and throughout the Christmas season. It is a time when the pace of activity heats up and we might find ourselves caught up in the frenzy. In Advent we sometimes experience conflict between our hopes for peace and joy, and the commercial and social demands around us. The days before Christmas are sacred, we want to make time for prayer, we look forward to annual concerts and pageants, as well as seeing and hearing from people we care about. And in the midst of it all we encounter traffic jams, ornery people, lists with more to be done than we have time for, and long lines in stores!
Advent is a season of expectation and watchfulness. It is also a season that finds us facing the losses in our lives. We miss people we love who have died, we may grieve a divorce or feel the loneliness of being single, or not being with our children or those we love.
Over three coming weeks (November 27, December 4, December 11) we will gather at 9 am in the parish hall for an Advent Forum series. The focus of this time together will be to consider how in this season of waiting and expectation we can become alert and watchful to God’s presence. How might we make room for God in Christ to be born in us when Christmas arrives?
On the First Sunday of Advent when we gather for corporate worship our service opens with a collect (a prayer) requesting that God “give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light”. What do we need to cast away in our lives? What is no longer serving us? What do we want to lay down, or set aside this Advent? And what do we want to put on? What practices do we want to take on?
The Second Sunday of Advent the collect and lessons assigned for the day challenge and invite us to face our reluctance to look at the theme of divine judgment. “Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation… Give us grace to heed their warnings.” Death, Judgment, and the End of Time are themes in Advent we will explore. How might we understand God’s judgment as a loving characteristic? How do we look at death and eternity? Do they open doors to new life?
The Third Sunday of Advent is Rejoice Sunday, Gaudete in Latin, Sunday. Pink candle Sunday, often referred to as Mary Sunday. We pray “Stir up your power, O Lord and with great might come among us.” What do we want to invite God in Christ into? Where do we pray that God’s power would be stirred up in our world and in ourselves.
I look forward to walking through the season of Advent with you and celebrating Christmas together.