COMING TO ADVENT
In my small hometown church, Christmas was never mentioned—and certainly not Advent. There were no wreaths or poinsettias or garlands—and no Christmas carols were sung. In their eagerness to follow the Bible literally, they found no mention of a specific date for remembering the birth of Jesus. Everyone had some version of the holiday in their homes—with decorations, carols and gifts—but not in the church services. To emphasize the point, we usually sang the Christmas carols in July.
As an adult, I associated Advent with counting down the days of December to Christmas by opening a numbered flap daily to remove a piece of chocolate candy. Things began to change after my divorce, when I moved into the Presbyterian Church. We became familiar with the Advent wreath with its four candles. On each successive Sunday of Advent, a family in the church would come forward to light the candles. We bought kits to make the candle wreath for our table at home. First grader Heather was thrilled to be an angel atop the stable in a live nativity scene in front of the church. Advent and Christmas took on new meaning.
This service bulletin from Al Souls in London marked a new twist to my concept of Advent. When Heather and I visited Patrick in 1993, we went to this evening service on the first Sunday of Advent. They emphasized the Second Advent—the return of Christ at the end of the age—as the one for which we are now waiting. And so it is.
The first photo above is of a set of Advent cards from Redeemer Church in Jackson, MS. While visiting Patrick’s family a few years ago, I was able to get what has become my favorite daily Advent resource. Compiled by Paul Rankin, a member of that church, each day’s card features a color image of a contemporary art piece and on the reverse, a daily meditation usually with scriptures or poetry. There is a list of the artwork titles, the artists’ names and type of media used. The beauty and simplicity of this repeated Advent practice enrich my season.