This Sunday I led the first in a short series on Advent; my focus was Advent Traditions. I learned a thing or two about Advent and about imagery that was somewhere in my periphery but not a direct focus of thought, and prepping for this session did that for me.
I learned about Good Deeds Mangers, Advent Calendars, and The Jesse Tree. It isn't that I hadn't heard of them before, just I hadn't paid much mind to them, and to that matter to Advent.
I've been so focused on "arriving," getting to the next step, getting to the end, the finish, that I was missing opportunities. Kinda of like driving 75mph down a small state highway with lots of things to notice, but the destination becomes the focus, and the ability for awe and surprise are greatly diminished.
And so, in getting ready to lead a discussion, Advent has come alive for me. I'm excited for this time, I'm excited to know that each night I and my family will light a candle and say a short evening Advent prayer. I regained something I had lost, but hadn't even known I was yearning for this time and this space. On that note, here's my reflection of Advent that I shared with the group as they then shared their reflections.
I started thinking about child birth and the excitement and preparation and anticipation:
-- There’s all these ways we count down to birth: months, trimesters, weeks, days, hours.
-- How you have to begin to prepare your body, mind, and home.
-- How your life is no longer your own anymore, everything changes.
Then I started to reflect on how much birth reflects becoming a member of the Body of Christ, that through Baptism everything changes and your life is no longer your own anymore.
-- We renounce, we accept and we do this in community.
-- We are to go out into the world as different people.
Then I started thinking about God’s love for us:
-- How much God must love us.
-- How much God had to trust in His creation.
-- How much humility God must have (1) To be born and (2) To be born into poverty.
Then I started to think about hospitality:
-- What does hospitality look like when it isn't offered (continually being turned away)?
-- What does hospitality look like when it is offered?
Here's some Advent wreath tidbits as well:
Martin Luther had a number of ideas for things that people could do at home to teach the catechism to their children. He certainly didn’t invent the wreath itself, because that goes back to ancient Roman times, and probably even earlier. Luther may have used the wreath as a Christian-education device and thus popularized it. Luther most likely had a hand in it because the Advent wreath in its present form started in Germany as a Lutheran family custom. Wreaths didn’t become popular in churches until the middle of the twentieth century. Now they are nearly universal.
The pink candle is becoming more and more popular, but it has a strange origin. Long ago, the pope had the custom of giving someone a rose on the fourth Sunday in Lent. This led the Roman Catholic clergy to wear rose-colored vestments on that Sunday. The effect was to give some relief to the solemnity of Lent, so this was a very popular custom. Originally, Advent was a solemn fast in preparation for Christmas, so the custom was extended to the third Sunday in Advent to liven it up a little bit too. Somewhere in there the third candle of the Advent wreath turned pink. Meanwhile, Advent is no longer solemn and the pope no longer has the custom of giving out roses. It is kind of odd to think that a Methodist would put a pink candle in a Lutheran Advent wreath because the pope used to have the custom of giving out roses, but sometimes we’re a little more ecumenical than we realize!
Note: All tidbits come from the BBC