Sunday, November 8, 2009

More Advent Ideas

A dear friend of mine wrote a great response to my Advent post of the other day. Apparently, the blogger comment application wouldn't allow her to post all of her wonderful ideas--the comment was too long. But, she emailed them to me, and I decided to post them here for you all to enjoy.
I particularly love her suggestions for music. She is a wonderful musician and music teacher, and I am a total novice when it comes to such things, so I always love her input in this area. Enjoy!

Thanks, Bethany, for this post as an invitation to dialogue about Advent! It is truly one of my favorite times of year, and the twelve days of Christmas mean so much more when Advent is celebrated first. Here are a few of my favorite ways to celebrate Advent:

- We really enjoy having the advent wreath on our table for devotions in the weeks leading up to Christmas. In addition to doing a Bible reading, we sing a verse of an advent hymn together each night. There are so many great ones, but they are often ignored in churches that don't really "get" advent! O Come O Come Immanuel in our hymnal has seven verses, so that will get you through the first week of Advent right there...Discipline yourself to save Christmas music for Christmas. Joy to the World, the Lord is Come is so powerful if you wait to sing it until Christmas morning!

- If you like classical music, there are so many wonderful pieces written for the celebration of Advent. Start with Bach's Cantata BWV 140. Read a translation of the text first (it's in German) and then listen to the cantata (really sit down and LISTEN without doing anything else - if you are out walking with your ipod, or riding in your car, it doesn't count...) and meditate on what the music and the text say about Christ, our relationship to him, and his second coming.

- Continuing the classical music theme, get a recording of the full Messiah by Handel. Do some concentrated listening during Advent to the first section of the oratorio, which focuses on Messianic prophesy. Then listen to the section which covers Christ's birth and the angels/shepherds on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, and you will feel as giddy with joy as the shepherds were.

(And one last musical tidbit, although this pertains more to Christmas than Advent - every year, on Christmas Eve, the service of lessons and carols is broadcast on the radio from Kings College in Cambridge. Find stations and times online. This is an amazing way to transition from Advent to Christmas!)

- Speaking of the second coming, which I was a few points ago, because Advent is a time of preparing to celebrate Christ's first coming (incarnation) as well as looking forward in anticipation and preparation for the second coming, I like to use Advent as a time to study parables about the kingdom of heaven and Bible texts about the wedding feast that is to come. Start with the story of the virgins and the oil, and go from there.

- I'll differ from Bethany in that I do do much of my Christmas planning in October and November - so that I don't have to do it during Advent. This weekend I am putting new lights on our artificial Christmas tree. The tree will go back into the basement storage tomorrow, but now I won't need to spend a whole day doing this when it is time to get it out again. This kind of prep is so that during Advent I can spend my free time enjoying the season and have peace in knowing that the necessary pieces for my Christmas celebration are already in place. As a grad student and a musician Christmas concerts and finals line up nicely :) and the first weeks of December are so busy anyway, I like to do the work part of the prep ahead of time. Plus, if my shopping is already done before Thanksgiving, I don't even have to witness the secular craze that surrounds everything during December.

- I, too, enjoy books as part of my Advent celebration. A beautiful portrayal of the waiting and anticipation of Advent can be found in "The Twenty Four Days Before Christmas" by Madeline L'Engle. It has been a favorite as long as I can remember and would be great for grade school age children on up.

- In preparation for the abundance of rich foods we enjoy at Christmas, I like to pare back in Advent. Lots of vegetarian meals, less dessert - food and spirituality are very tied together for me (I really don't mean to sound new agey in that, although I admit it does sound that way...) and this is a way to prepare my body for feasting and celebration too!

- Finally, I have never heard anyone else express it quite like this, but I like to think of Thanksgiving as a kick-off for Advent, much like I've heard of my Catholic friends enjoying "Fat Tuesday" as a feast day before Lent. Thanksgiving is a holiday unto itself, I know, but it seems that a huge celebration of the abundant gifts God has given to us is a fitting way to begin a period of time devoted to focusing on preparing our hearts for his second coming, and evaluating the best way to be his hands in this world. Remembering that Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year, Thanksgiving Day is like a huge New Year's celebration for me.

This is very long, but your post got me very excited, Bethany! I love Advent and discussions about how to observe it are so helpful to get ideas flowing, since Advent is pretty counter-cultural in today's world.

Thanks for the opportunity to think about this!


  1. The point about paring back on food is very appropriate; the Eastern Catholic rites, and the Eastern Orthodox, all observe the Philip's Fast, the Advent fast. Traditionally they fast from animal foods throughout Advent, particularly on Wednesdays and Fridays, just as they do during Lent. We got in the habit of doing this a while back and I enjoyed it, and will be going back to it as much as I can this year. This way, we are more ready for the celebration of Christmas, rather than feeling glutted after a month of holiday foods before the actual holiday!

  2. I've enjoyed your two advent posts. We get this period so wrong these days and one can't helped getting sucked into the stress and panic. No wonder so many people get colds and viruses at this time. It used to be that Christmas started on Christmas Day and carried on over the next week or so. Nowadays it just feels like a huge anti-climax.


Hello! I'm so glad that you have come here to share your heart and thoughts. One quick word from me before you comment:

I ask all visitors to respect this as a place of peace. Disagreements are welcome, but please refrain from posting any ungracious comments. Thank you, and God bless.