Advent is here! I think this is one of my favorite seasons of the year because I love the anticipation of the miracle of Christ’s birth at Christmas. To be fair, I also love the season of Lent as we prepare for Jesus’ gift of perfect love for us and his glorious Resurrection on Easter morn. For me, the connection rests in the awareness of God’s amazing love for us as demonstrated so selflessly in both of these seasons. For now, though, let’s concentrate on the season upon us – Advent.
Each year, I look for new ways of celebrating the season without giving in too much to society’s desire to start Christmas earlier and earlier each year. I’m writing this on the first of December after doing a little run to Walmart (please, don’t judge me too harshly; Walmart is the only act in town in Hillsdale). I was stunned to see how picked over all the Christmas things were already. Since the students in my dorm will be leaving well before Christmas, I needed to pick up a few things to decorate our campus home. I found what I wanted but I grabbed the last of the 20” wreaths and the red outdoor bows were almost gone, too. Despite these decorations in my college home, I am eager to focus on Advent tomorrow.
This year, I’m going to be using the book O Wisdom: Advent Devotions on the Name of Jesus published by Forward Movement as my devotional reading each day. I’ve also been intrigued by the comments of some of my closest friends who are reading Fleming Rutledge’s new book Advent: The Once and Future Coming of Jesus Christ who have recently purchased this so I just loaded it on my Kindle for my bedtime reading.
I’m sure you can find many wonderful resources for Advent by checking with your friends or searching the internet. I’d also suggest checking out the resources from The Episcopal Church website where you will find the “Journeying the Way of Love Curriculum” and calendar. On this page you’ll also see links for Advent and Christmas sermons; Preparing to Become the Beloved Community, reflections on how we embrace the Holy One who comes as one who is seen as “the other” in our midst; Advent bulletin inserts; AdventWord 2018, a global Advent calendar; and Walking in Welcome, an Advent webinar series with Episcopal Migration Ministries.
Let me say a few words about the Way of Love Calendar. I’m excited to use this resource for Advent because I had a found a similar calendar preparing for Thanksgiving last month called Gratitude Every Day from Traci Smith, the author of Faithful Families: Creating Sacred Moments at Home. While this Thanksgiving calendar had been designed as an exercise to use within a family group, I was happy to consider the daily suggestions for moments of gratitude as I reflected on my day before bed every night. Rather than go to sleep with the worries of the day on my mind, I focused on the blessings of each day – and I slept so much better, too.
The Way of Love Calendar for Advent is a little different since it asks for an action rather than just a reflection every day. I know we’re all so busy this time of year but these won’t take long at all. Each day of the week focuses on one of the seven disciplines of The Way of Love as introduced by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry this summer: Worship, Go, Learn, Pray, Bless, Turn, and Rest. An example of one day for “Go” is “Choose to take a different route to work, to school, or to play today. Who or what did you encounter differently?” And, like my gratitude calendar for November, these activities would be wonderful to do with a family or group of close friends so that you could discuss everyone’s experiences and experience Advent through their eyes, too. My plan is to read each day’s entry in the morning with my devotions and then reflect a bit in my thankfulness journal on how I lived into the day’s action. I’m quite sure you’ll be able to make the calendar work in a meaningful way for you, too.
And there’s more! Check out these other links…
From Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD), an Advent Toolkit
From the Society of St John the Evangelist (SSJE), the O Antiphon videos
From Anglicans Online, a rather comprehensive list of resources
We are rich with resources, indeed!!
As most of you likely know, I am one of the facilitators of Exploring Your Spiritual Journey (EYSJ) for the diocese. Every year at this time, I ask the participants to consider how they might welcome or meet Jesus in a new way in Advent. Let me throw that thought out for you, too. May this season bring you closer to our Lord as you prepare to encounter Jesus in new places and new ways.
Let us pray –
Lord Jesus Christ,
who is, who was, and who is to come,
we pray for the virtue of hope,
that amidst the trials and difficulties
of this world,
we may keep our hearts fixed
upon you, who reigns over the cosmos.
May your grace enliven us,
and defend us,
as we await your coming in glory. Amen
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council