~ ~ ~
As a child, Advent was mostly fine but also slightly irritating, because it was mainly celebrated by lighting Advent candles during the church service each Sunday. As a pastors' child, I was inevitably roped into this task at least once per Advent. I found this to be pretty embarrassing, though I can no longer articulate exactly why, since I was generally happy to participate in and help out with the service in other ways.
The other major source of Advent embarrassment during my childhood was Christmas kettles. My parents are ministers for the Salvation Army, which meant that Advent was also Kettle Season, and our family was charged with filling in any gaps in the volunteer bell-ringing schedule, especially right at the end when people were busy doing their important Christmas Eve things. At such times, I was given a bell and told to smile and say happy holidays, but doing these things was nearly unbearable to me as a thoroughly introverted and quiet child. Once, as a teenager, I rang a bell at a kettle by myself, and was discovered by some high school friends on their way into the Walmart I was in front of, much to their amusement and my chagrin.
As an adult, I have come to love these things. Advent candles are a nice ceremony that helps keep a sense of continuity among the various services I see as I travel around the country during the season; most churches I've been to during Advent have some version of the candle lighting. Kettles, meanwhile, became a lot more fun once I grew up enough to play Christmas carols on my tuba at the kettle, which I love.
|Me & Tuba|
~ ~ ~
Every year, my church puts out an Advent devotional, which has a short thought for each day of the season, with suggested Bible readings for each day. The devotional at my church is composed by members of the church, with a different person volunteering to write something each day. This year, I got to participate. Below is my entry:
12/14 - St. John of the Cross
1 Samuel 2:1-8
In Luke 3, John the Baptist is preparing people for the arrival of the Christ, just as the Church prepares for Christ’s arrival during the season of Advent. John quotes Isaiah’s command to prepare a way for the Lord’s return to Jerusalem. In doing so, he draws on Isaiah’s message of hope for an end to exile and disempowerment and despair, which was still very pertinent in his day. As it is in our own.
How can we prepare for the Christ? “What should we do?” ask John’s listeners in Luke. He tells them: Share with those in need. Take no more than you ought. Treat others with respect. John suggests that his listeners prepare themselves and their world for the coming of the Christ through acts of justice. May the Church take his words to heart in our own time.
~ ~ ~
Growing up in the Salvation Army, Advent was the time Christmas carols were sung in church. So when, during my college years, I was invited to play my guitar for the Advent hymn sing at a Lutheran church, I brought some printouts of Christmas carols with the appropriate chords to strum. When we sat down to sing, people started to request songs that I'd never heard of before. I looked them up in the hymnal and tried to piece together what I should play on the fly from looking at the four-part harmonies under the words, a challenging task for a mediocre guitar player.
"Why don't we sing some of these songs I've prepared?" I asked, motioning towards my printouts. "Oh, no, those are Christmas carols. You can't sing those at Advent, because it's the season of preparation for Jesus to come. These are all songs about Jesus already being here!" This was my first introduction to the liturgical intricacies that are engrained in Lutheranism and other churches. Thankfully, the Lutherans put up graciously with my less-than-robust gutarmanship, and I learned some lovely new hymns as a result.
Photo 2: Me