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How do you spend Advent?

Advent wreath. Some rights reserved (CC BY-SA 3.0) by Micha L. Rieser. Sourced from Wikipedia.“Prepare the way of the Lord” was part of our scriptures in this morning’s lectionary. It’s a great reminder from Isaiah, reiterated by John the baptizer, that we’re meant to be getting ready to welcome Christ into our lives.

So… how’s that going for you?

Many of the folks I’ve chatted with this past week (myself included!) have been busy with preparations, to be sure: they’re making cleaning schedules, shopping for that perfect-yet-on-budget gift, searching out Christmas outfits, going to parties, making holiday menus, planning seating charts to keep dueling cousins apart, practicing Christmas songs, decorating house and tree…

The list goes on. We’re all getting ready; we all want it to be a great Christmas.

But – we’re in Advent. It is a beautiful, distinct season in the Christian calendar. It’s a season that should be respected and honoured for what it is. I find it ironic that this season of watching and waiting, of patience and prayer (and penitence, originally!) is so often spent caught up in secular tasks and hurriedness.

Ought we to be more focused on celebrating Advent as part of our Christian witness, rather than getting swept away into the secular rush to the 25th? Should we be more intentional about acknowledging and enjoying Advent, not just in our churches but in our lives? To do this is to go against the flow, to break away from the norm. It’s directing our hearts toward Christ, not Santa; directing our energy toward peace and parousia, not presents and parties. It’s not necessarily popular in culture – but it never has been. John the Baptist went against the flow, Mary went against the flow, Jesus went against the flow – we have some great role models just in this short season.

With that in mind, I wonder how people out there are engaging with this Advent season: within your church, are there special readings and prayers? Advent candles in a wreath? Timely hymns? Blue vestments? Lessons and Carols? Individually, how are you recognizing the blessing of the season: home prayers? Devotional readings? Candles and prayers with the family? Lanterns? Calendars?

I am curious to know how folks are celebrating Advent. What are your favourite Advent hymns? What is your favourite Advent scripture? In what way are you showing the world your inner, spiritual calm in preparation for the celebration of Christmas? How are you preparing for Christmas, not just 25 December?

About Laura Marie Piotrowicz

I’m a high-energy priest, now serving in the Diocese of Niagara, catching glimpses of the kingdom in daily life. I consider church to be a verb, and I’m passionate about prayer, eco-theology, and social justice. I love travel, reading, canoeing, camping, gardening and cooking, playing with my dogs, and drinking good coffee.

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4 Responses to How do you spend Advent?

  1. As you say it is “against the flow, to break away from the norm”, so Advent often seems like a lost cause. I realize many see me as a quaint old fuddy-duddy when I point out that the 12 days of Christmas start with Christmas Day as number one. Nevertheless every year I promote the observance of Advent prior to Christmas and there are a few small victories.
    In our Parish we have started calling the traditional banquet held in early December our “Annual Advent Supper” rather the “The Christmas Banquet”.
    In my ministry in care homes I make a point of using mostly advent hymns –saving the Christmas carols for Christmas and Epiphany. Identifying “Joy To the World” as a Second-Advent song gives me a bit of wiggle room.
    The family of one my colleagues uses all the Santa Claus stuff (stockings etc.) on Dec. 6th –feast day of the real Saint Nic(olas). Then they put it all away and resume their observance of Advent.

    • Thanks Dell!
      I too work to keep Advent as Advent. I was at a Nicholas party on the weekend, where we even played Advent and Christmas trivia games – one of my questions was on Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” (written for the Epiphany, the twelfth night of Christmas).
      And, for my personal devotions, I follow a Celtic tradition where Advent is a 40-day observance prior to the feast.
      Lovely to hear other places are carrying on Advent traditions too 🙂

  2. I’ve long been one who works to keep (enforce?) Advent. At times, probably to unhealthy and unhelpful levels. But this year, I find myself relaxing a little: not in congregational life, but around the house. The main factor in that shift, I think, is that we have a little one toddling around the floor. Everything has changed.

    I pray my way through Advent readings and reflections. We light Advent candles at dinner. We have conversations about seeing glimpses of the Kingdom that is to come, and how we can join in that hope (on Earth, as it is in heaven). We’ve already had the talk about how we’re going to handle family re: “the Santa thing.” But you know, the baby loves music, and often asks for it. My spouse loves old-school Christmas music, and it seems to be the Internet radio feed of choice these days. And you know what? That’s okay.

    Where I’ve felt the most personal growth this Advent season is in my ability to live into the season of expectation without reacting negatively against those who have chosen to do it differently. I’d be very interested to hear from others about Advent and children: what has worked? What has changed? Where has unexpected grace entered the picture?

    • What a great gift to recognize that Emmanuel will come to us all in unique and exciting ways – whether it’s before the 25th or after. Thanks for sharing!!

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