Opening the doors of the Advent calendars is a special part of the 24-day process. Built into the process is a basic time constraint: one day at a time.
I learned the process with my family, both as a child, and with my own new family as parents. There were things that needing doing, stories that needed telling, scripture that needed reading.
In the first years my parents led the exercise. We would set up the calendar in a central place. We would gather in front. On the first days my parents would open the door for day 1. One of us would read the message. We would read the scripture verse and share the story, and we then made plans to come back the next morning for the opening of the next day’s door.
Sometimes we would ask to see the next day early. My parents always denied the request, telling us the next day would come soon enough, to be patient! And we would wait.
And soon enough the next day, the next week came. We lighted a candle at the appropriate day, and the next week came, and the next.
As quick as that, it was the night before Christmas, and suddenly Advent was almost over,
And then... Christmas had come.
I suppose we celebrated more than twenty Advents across the years in this very way. After the children moved away, we left the Advent calendar tucked among Christmas decorations.
But... we never stop thinking as Christmas draws near, that Advent is coming again, when Christmas is here.
In Church, we celebrate Advent with selected music, spoken words are said, and by the lighting of candles In an Advent wreath. Over the years the most commonly sung song during the candle Lightings in my life, was O Come. O Come Emanuel. Many times, the tradition called for a single verse to be sung the first week, and more verses added each week, until the full fivefold lightings were accomplished.
I have always loved this song and setting, and I even developed over time my own special bass baritone harmony to embellish the chorus phrase:
Rejoice, rejoice Ema-a-an-u-El, shall come to Thee, O Israel. This private harmonic made the chorus more personal to and for me, and over time all the more celebratory.
Join me now at your table if you dare: sing loudly!
Rejoice, rejoice, Emanuel shall ransom captive, I-is-ra-el.
Wasn’t that a secret delight?
That delight IS what Advent IS truly all about. Come, let us adore Him! Christ! The LORD!
-Submitted by Jon Elvrum
On the first Sunday of Advent we light the candle of hope.
And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."
a quote attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr.
As the nights lengthen and temperatures drop in December, we remember that the times in which Mary lived were metaphorically dark and cold times for people like her. The descendants of Abraham lived under the heavy thumb of the Roman Empire. Income inequality and political and religious corruption were widespread. Caesar proclaimed himself lord of all the known world, and disloyalty was severely punished.
This was the world into which God sent his messenger to Mary, with an unbelievable announcement: that she would bear a Child who would be able to put right everything that human beings had made go wrong. The moral universe, as designed by God, had been horribly warped by the wrong and self-centered choices of human beings. But the Child Mary would bear would begin the repair process. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the arc of the moral universe would begin to bend in the right direction.
When we find ourselves living through dark times, with causes and effects tangled up into seemingly impossible knots, it is good to remember what God's messenger told Mary: "Nothing is impossible with God". God may work in ways we cannot predict, do not expect, and may not live to see, but be certain of this: God is working. God is working in us and through us for the transformation of the world. As Paul wrote to the Philippians, "God is the one who began this good work in you, and I am certain that he won't stop before it is complete on the day that Christ Jesus returns."
We light the candle of hope, because with God, there is hope. And that's good news to me!
Prayer: Come, Lord Jesus, not just into a manger in Bethlehem, but into our minds, our hearts, and every inch of our being. May we say "yes" to you as willingly and joyfully as Mary, and may you use us in your great plan to transform the world as it is to the world you intended to be.
-Submitted by Lorraine Eyer