I was interviewed Monday about Advent and The Uncluttered Heart.
Listen to Beth Richardson discuss her Advent study, The Uncluttered Heart, with BWC webmaster Lesley Carter. Beth, who is currently the editor of Alive Now magazine and deacon at Edgehill UMC, Nashville, Tn., talks about the opportunity to develop spiritual disciplines and practice during Advent as well as her innovative use of technology in support of the book.
10. You get to start celebrating New Year’s early.
Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year for Christians. [Liturgical — from liturgy, which means the forms and functions of public worship.] The dates of Advent vary each year, but it always contains the four Sundays before Christmas Day. This year Advent starts on November 28.
9. Christmas Procrastinators Rule!
If you observe Advent, you have a legitimate reason for putting off all sorts of things — decorating, putting up your Christmas tree, buying presents. (Be sure to get your Mom’s present, though …) In the Christian realm, Christmas-celebrating doesn’t start until Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. But then you have 12 whole days of Christmas afterward! Christmas ends with Epiphany (January 6), the day when we remember the Wise Men arriving to worship the Christ child.
8. Go ahead, all the other Christians are doing it!
Well, OK, not all Christians are observing Advent. (One Christian even asked me if Advent was a Jewish holiday.) But Advent’s been around since the early centuries of Christianity. In recent years, more denominations are starting to observe Advent — kind of recapturing our history.
7. Offers an excellent alternative to decorating with red and green.
The colors of Advent are purple or blue. You may see these colors in your church vestments (the cloths on the altar or podium), in the stoles worn by your pastor or choir, in the color of the candles on the Advent wreath. These are royal colors, calling to mind the Coming of the Son of God.
6. If you LOVE candles, you’ll LOVE Advent!
Lots of folks celebrate Advent by using an Advent wreath. It’s often four candles on a circular wreath signifying the four weeks of Advent. A candle in the center is the Christ candle, lit on Christmas Day and Epiphany. Usually the four candles are purple or blue. If you celebrate Gaudete Sunday on the third week, that candle is pink. (Gaudete means “rejoice” in Latin.) The Christ candle is white.
5. Learn new words to impress your friends.
What more could you ask for? Advent, liturgy, Gaudete, Advent wreath, liturgical season, vestments. You rock, linguistically speaking.
4. Learn new seasonal songs.
When you celebrate Advent, wait until Christmas to sing all those Christmas songs (“Silent Night,” “Jingle Bells,” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” and other liturgical favorites). There are TONS of great Advent songs that most people don’t know so well. … Like, “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus,” “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” “I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light,” and “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming.” You can even sing some Advent texts to Christmas tunes (if you can’t wait to hear them).
The whole reason for observing the liturgical seasons is that we get to hear Jesus’ entire life story every year. For those of us humans who tend to forget important things like Love and God and Christ, this is definitely a good idea. During Advent, we remember the events leading up to Jesus’ birth.
1. Great remedy for pre-Christmas stress.
Advent’s primary message is to wait, listen, get in touch with God, and prepare our lives and hearts for Jesus’ coming. For speeded up, stressed out people (that would be most of us), this is an intriguing invitation. Observe Advent — and get more in touch with God.
You’re invited to observe Advent this year. Light the first Advent Candle — and lower your stress — starting November 27, 2011.
Perhaps it’s because of my dad’s decline into Alzheimer’s, but my return to the family cabin is especially powerful this year. It is like all the memories Dad has forgotten were waiting at the threshold of the cabin for someone to enter.
I’ve been coming here since I was a little girl. Today as I came through the door, I breathed in the familiar smells of this place and felt the presence of loved ones who are no longer here — grandparents, great aunts and uncles, my mom.
A movie played in my head — I heard the sound of Mom’s laughter and saw her smile; I felt the pokes of nails I was sorting to help Grandpa Tom with his construction project; I saw myself, early in the morning, running through the freezing cabin to reach the warmth of the kitchen and Dad’s blueberry pancakes.
I am home.
Not the home where I live all year round …
But a place I feel most grounded,
Most connected, most spiritually myself.
A lifetime of my memories
Sits on these shelves,
Vibrates in this air,
Roams around these rooms.
In this place
I am … truly … home.
I could say something pious like “I gave up my blog for Lent (and the first few weeks of Easter)” … But the truth is that I broke it and had a bit of trouble getting the blog fixed. Technology failed me this time.
It’s been a beautiful Spring here in Nashville, accompanied by lots and lots of pollen. The blessings of life are full of surprises.
I’m not much of a cook, but I love helping with the baking during the holidays. We had a pie-baking extravaganza on the day before Christmas Eve. The iPod was on “Christmas shuffle” and we spent the day making four pies. The recipe was “Jenni’s Mom’s Dutch Apple Pie.” I am the apple peeler and cutter and the one who cleans. (Oh, and the one who eats pie.)
I opened a gift from my brother on Christmas and discovered the Nativity scenes from our childhood. One was the figures we had played with — with Mary’s chipped nose and the shepherd whose legs were lost along the way. Joseph’s head’s been glued back on so many times that he has a mantle of Elmer’s. Also in the box were the copper wire figures my dad crafted as a part of an Advent wreath and crèche.
As I unpacked the box, tears flowed. I didn’t know the crèches were still around. These treasures from my childhood coming back to me now — what a great gift!
I’m wondering — what are the significant rituals or symbols you remember from your childhood? Do you still have them in your life?
I had the privilege of sharing Thanksgiving with my pastor’s family. Among the guests were three college freshmen – two from Rwanda and one from China.
What a wonderful experience to see this tradition through their eyes. New food, new ideas. The young woman from China had never had the chance to help cook a family dinner before (kids usually had to stay out of the way). The young men from Rwanda had question after question about the American culture:
• How did Obama get elected?
• Where are all the skyscrapers they thought they’d see in America? (They’re school is in a small town much like theirs at home.)
• What does it cost the bridegroom to marry a young woman (at home, it could be as much as six cows.)
We talked about where we got our names, what foods we like to eat, politics, race, and geography. The presence of these young people, their thoughts, cultures, and experiences made it a very rich time of fellowship.
Advent is nearly here. I am preparing my heart, mind, spirit, and manuscript for preaching on Sunday at West End United Methodist Church here in Nashville. On Tuesday, December 1, I’ll lead an Advent workshop here at the United Methodist Center. I appreciate your prayers in the coming days.
Now — are you ready for Advent? Have you found your Advent wreath? Bought your Advent candles? Picked out a devotional booklet of some sort to use? Identified some community to travel with through this season?
Open My Heart – An Advent Prayer Song
I offer you this Advent prayer song I’ve written to help me open my heart to God. Feel free to learn it to sing out loud or in your heart. Or just say the words to yourself as a prayer. Blessings to you as we prepare to enter Advent 2009.
Open wide the doorway to my heart, O God. Fill me with hope.
Open wide the windows of my heart, O God. Fill me with peace.
Open up the corners of my heart, O God. Fill me with joy.
Soften up the edges of my heart, O God. Fill me with love.
Update (11/25/09): Here is a link to a .zip file of the music that you can download and use personally or corporately. There are five files — one for each week of Advent (hope, peace, joy, and love) — and one file that includes all the prayers together. Permission is granted for personal devotional use or for use in local church worship services or study settings. Please include copyright notice whenever the words are printed.