Before Sunday, I wanted to take a minute to quickly chat about what Advent is for and to also open up the floor for you to share with each other your favourite ways to participate in Advent, too.
This year, I’m being guided by the traditional Carmelite themes of Advent: waiting, accepting, journeying, and birthing which has been illuminating for me, casting Advent in an entirely different light. As I mentioned earlier this week, I’ll be emailing a series of brand new Advent meditations to paid subscribers this year, each one releasing on the Sundays of December up until Christmas Eve.
Advent is the Church’s way of observing and remembering, of marking the truth we believe that God came to be with us once, and God is still with us, and God is coming again to set all things right. Christians all around the world – in churches and in homes, in refugee camps and on the streets, alone or together - participate in Advent in many unique and beautiful ways.
Advent (from the Latin word adventus means “coming”) is also the start of the western Church’s calendar. It’s a season of anticipation in two ways. On one hand, we’re walking alongside the Gospel story of how the world waited for the birth of Jesus in anticipation of Christmas. We’re declaring the words of prophets, longing for the Messiah. We’re alongside of Mary, pregnant with God, waiting for the child to be born. We’re walking in solidarity with those who waited in ancient times, mirroring their journey, hearing the prophecies afresh. It’s a way for us to prepare our hearts for Christmas.
And yet on our other hand, these weeks are also about our own longings and hopes, our anticipation for the redemption and restoration of all things, too. We are still in the world waiting, aching, yearning for the beautiful redemption of all pain, all sorrow, all brokenness. We are holding all of our unanswered prayers and doubts, our hopes. We are holding the suffering ones, the sorrowful ones. We are holding a creation that is groaning with longing for peace, for wholeness, for justice and daring to hope that Christ has come and Christ will come again. We’re clearing away the pretense of “it’s fine” and admitting together that we’re supremely not fine, we are deeply in need of a rescue again. As I said a few years ago, Advent is for those of us who know longing.
This is not the performative waiting, the “we know how this one goes” sort of waiting. It’s the waiting of those whose eyes are open, whose feet are on the bare earth, who watch the stars at night with wonder and grief. We’re the ones who have heard a rescue is coming and we dare to believe it, hope for it, still. Madeleine L’Engle writes, “the only thing I know about the Second Coming is that it is going to happen because of God’s love. God made the universe out of love; the Word shouted all things joyfully into being because of love. The Second Coming, when it happens and whatever it means, will also be because of love.”* That is enough for me to know today.
Some churches observe Advent in a formal liturgical way (we’ll be with my sister’s Anglican Church this season and so every Sunday involves an Advent liturgy with readings and candle lighting and particular colours on the altar etc.) but a lot of churches don’t formally observe the Church Calendar any longer. Regardless a lot of us have been cobbling together our own ways and means of observing Advent from Jesse Trees to wreaths, devotionals to poetry, photo challenges to giving invitations.
So that brings us to one another - let’s share some of the ways and means with which we observe and practice Advent. If there is a resource you love, feel free to share it with us. If there is a poem or a practice or a communal participation thing that you have going on, we’d love to hear it. If there is an essay you’ve loved or a book or a devotional, post about it. Got an Instagram challenge? We love it.
(In the comments, I’ll share more about what our family does to observe Advent.)
My hope is that we can each find something here that will help us to expect Jesus this December, to open up our hearts and lives to the rescue of God and the wonder of Emmanuel, God with us.
And for those of you who are paid subscribers, I’ll catch you back here on Sunday with the first Sunday’s meditation on the theme of “waiting.” See you then.
Gathering candles and hope,
P.S. If you can’t afford to subscribe, please just email me and let me know. We will look after you.
Related: Does Advent even matter when the world is on fire?