First Sunday of Advent 2012

Advent wreath“I just want Christmas to be different this year.”

How many times have we said that either to ourselves or to our families? How often have considered the approaching holidays with dread? We want to live differently into the Christmas season…more reflective, less hurried, with more margin in our lives to give more…of our time and our finances to our family and those in need. But all around us we are rush into some kind of celebration that equates love with spending.

This year, we vow, things will be different. This year we will slow down. We will spend less. We will be attentive to all the places and moments where God is present in the midst of the hubbub.

So what how does that happen? What can you do differently that could possibly make this kind of space in your life for you to attend to the things that matter most to you?

For centuries, Christians prepared their hearts for Christmas through participating in a daily devotion called Advent. The word “Advent” means “coming.” The season of Advent refers to a four-week period leading up to Christmas. It is seen as a time of preparing our hearts to recognize the coming of Jesus, God incarnate, not just as a child but his coming into our everyday lives all year long. Advent always begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas.  So today is the first day of Advent. I will be posting a daily blog for your Advent devotions during this holiday season to help make this Christmas the kind you’ve always longed for.

Traditionally, an Advent wreath is used with some kind of candle-lighting ceremony, reading of scriptures, and prayer. (Pictured) You can easily make your own Advent wreath. (Check out Pinterest!) There are four candles, each representing the four Sunday before Christmas. The center candle is traditionally the Jesus candle, lit on Christmas day. Although there is much symbolism for each candle, you may or may not adhere to it. At the beginning of your daily or family devotions, light the first candle on the first Sunday of Advent and then each day that week during your Advent devotional time. The second Sunday of Advet light two candles, and during the week, and so on. As well, there are plenty of resources on the internet to learn how to make an Advent wreath as well as resources for a daily family Advent service with young children.

Although most of us, like myself, might not have grown up observing Advent, it “reminds us that in a culture full of clutter and distraction, we seek to make room for what is essential. In a season frantic with consumerism and superficial sentiments, we are committed to creating space for what is real.  In hearts driven to distraction by a multitude of cares and concerns, we do whatever it takes to “prepare the way” for some sort of meaningful connection with Christ.” Ruth Haley Barton

That’s what the season of Advent is all about: an intentional slowing and creating space in our frenzied lives to pay attention to the places where God is near…that we might, like the Wise Men and shepherds…worship him. I hope you will join us on this Advent journey!

What do you dread most about the Christmas season?

What are you most hopeful about as you consider Advent?

Scripture Reading: “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Matt. 4:16

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One Response to First Sunday of Advent 2012

  1. Shari says:

    Thank you Gail- I’m so excited about this! I appreciate your words and how they will help form my heart’s attention this month. This is going to be a Christmas I look forward to for new reasons. 🙂

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