I’ve loved Advent as long as I can remember. And running across this photo of me, face to face with the Nativity set let me see the gift my parents gave me as a young child.
My memories are of our family lighting the Advent wreath together every Sunday. Each child yearned to be old enough to light the candle. Once you could read, there was the Bible passage or that week’s meditation from the Advent booklet. I didn’t love accompanying the family’s Advent hymn on the piano. 😉
When The Upper Room invited me to write a book for the Advent season, I was thrilled. It called back all those memories of the Advent wreath, the candles, the little book, the awkward hymn playing and the singing.
And I am grateful for this gift.
God, open our hearts and the hearts of the world to your hope. Peel back the layers of our stubborn opinions, our fearful assumptions, and let the light of your life-giving spirit enter in. Amen.
I’m sitting here reading about the world’s latest craziness. (What is going to happen next?!?) And I’m wondering where those the nice Advent feelings are that I used to be able locate inside myself. “Maybe, this year, there will be peace.” “Oh, look, there are the signs of hope (or joy, or love).” Right now, I’m not feeling very hopeful.
Hope isn’t a simple, sweet sentiment or an unreachable goal. Hope’s a bit risky — it’s not based on and doesn’t rely on some kind of secret-handshake promise from God. Our hoping does not mean that everything will turn out the way we want it to.
Hope is, instead, a spiritual practice, appropriate any time but especially during the season of Advent. We wait and hope for the coming of Christ into the world. We hope even when it doesn’t feel like it’s going to make a difference. We hope because we are children of God, children of hope. …
When we hope, we align ourselves more closely with the God of the Universe — the eternal force of good, of hope and love and peace.
Carry these words in your heart today: I am God’s partner in hope.
For those of you looking for The Uncluttered Heart … The emails and texts are no longer available. But the content is here — though you will find the dates are wrong. Blessings on your Advent season! – Beth P.S. The book is available in print, EPub, and Kindle formats.
Join me in worship this coming Sunday. I’ll be preaching at Los Altos United Methodist Church, 655 Magdalena Avenue, Los Altos, California 94024. LAUMC is using The Uncluttered Heart during the Advent season. This Sunday we’ll be preparing to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ child.
If you can’t be present at the church, the services (8:00 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 11:15 a.m., and 5:00 p.m., PST) will be streamed live on the internet. Join me! Los Altos Live Stream.
The services are also archived if you’d like to view at a later time.
Please pray for me as I travel to California and prepare to lead in worship.
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.
I’ve been “doing Advent” for several weeks — preaching, teaching, answering emails, posting comments on the website, leading workshops and Sunday school. Trying to unclutter my heart, despite having a bit too much to do.
The day I led an Advent retreat for colleagues at the General Board of Discipleship, I was sitting up front while my boss was introducing me. A photographer friend came up beside me and I moved back so she would have a better angle for her picture of my boss. In a few seconds, she moved. I moved back a bit farther. She moved again, and I moved back a few more inches. Finally, I looked at her and she mouthed to me, “I’m trying to get a picture of YOU.” We both laughed. I stopped moving.
When I shared the story with a good friend of mine, she said, “I hope you are still backing up ten years from now.” And I think that was the perfect metaphor for the writer, the servant, the person I want to be. In ten years — or twenty years — I hope I’m still backing up.
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.
The books (The Uncluttered Heart) are being ordered. My calendar is getting full. Must be the season of preparation — for Advent. (Funny that you have to prepare to Prepare.)
We’ve launched the web site for The Uncluttered Heart. Here’s a link to it. At the web site, readers can sign up to receive communications from me during the period that they are reading the book (from Advent — November 29 — through Epiphany — January 6). People can receive a text sometime each day — with a short reminder of the focus of that day. Or they can receive an email that has that same reminder and also a photograph. If readers are so inclined, they can have a conversation about the readings at The Uncluttered Heart web site. I hope you’ll check it out.
I’ll be preaching at West End United Methodist Church on November 29 (the first Sunday in Advent). If you are in Tennessee, come and worship. Services are at 8:45 and 11:00. I’ll be doing a book signing in between.
On Tuesday, December 1, I’m leading a 1/2 day retreat at The Upper Room on the book. If you’d like to join us, you are welcome. The retreat is being opened up to the community in Nashville. We’ll follow the morning retreat with lunch and then we’ll be going out into the community to do service. Contact me or Sherry Elliott if you’d like to participate.
On Wednesday, December 9, you’ll find me at Belmont UMC for their Wednesday night gathering. Or you can join us for Sunday school at Edgehill United Methodist Church during each Sunday in Advent. Judy Smith and I will be leading the classes.
(OK — I’m tired just writing this. Pray for me, ya’ll. I may need some extra help this year to make space in my heart for the coming of the Christ child.)
Ok — It was really a vacation with a book signing thrown in. But I did get to talk about The Uncluttered Heart, pass out some cards, and have a book signing (I even signed a few books). I went to Colorado for the first couple of weeks in September. While I was there, I attended a conference that was carrying my book in the bookstore. (I think that Advent/seasonal books are a bit hard to promote like other books. I mean, who really wants to buy an Advent book in July — or September?)
For any of you who have blogs, write for newspapers or newsletters, etc., if you’d like to review the book or interview me, please shoot me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ve got books to send to the first 20 who contact me.