Sunday, December 02, 2007

First Sunday in Advent

Today marks the first Sunday in Advent. A lot of people - my family among them - choose to begin their Advent observations on December 1st these days, rather than the traditional fourth Sunday before Christmas. It makes it easier to keep track of the days and easier to write, make, and use Advent devotionals and calendars. Nevertheless, today marks the true beginning.

Advent is the season in which Christians prepare their hearts for the coming (the advent) of Christ. We contemplate the true meaning of Christmas - God humbling Himself to an unfathomable degree, becoming man. We refer to this as the Incarnation. It's an astounding concept. A devout person could go through a lifetime of Advent seasons and still not come close to wrapping his mind around it. Wonder is an appropriate and common sentiment during this time of year.

The Advent wreath pictured above was a gift made for me several years ago by my friend Janene. (Speaking of Janene, check out her alphabetical Advent at her store's blog.) It is one of my favorite Christmas decorations, and it is usually the first to be put up. I just pulled it from its box tonight (yes, I very nearly missed lighting the first candle). We don't have a tree yet and our mantle is still decorated with autumn leaves and miniature pumpkins...but the Advent wreath is out. When I was a child, my family used three purple and one pink candle in our Advent wreath - the traditional colors, I believe - but I have always used red in mine, adding a fifth candle in the middle to be lighted on Christmas Day.

Earlier today I was reading through a 1912 copy of The Lutheran Hymnary. I am not Lutheran, but my husband's family is, and so I have been introduced to many of the traditions of that liturgical denomination. While my family celebrated Advent, we did not observe the rest of the liturgical church calendar at all (save Christmas and Easter). I learned a little bit about Lent in college and have observed it off and on since then. I have found many of the traditions associated with the calendar to be interesting, admirable, and meaningful. I have suspected for some time that I would find greater meaning and enrichment if I were to delve deeper into the church calendar, were to actually follow the readings, prayers and songs of the entire year. Advent marks the beginning of the church calendar. I think I will try to follow it this year. If you're interested in following along, I'll be posting about it here. I don't know yet exactly what I'll post, but I suspect it will be traditional readings, other passages that I find relevant, and my personal thoughts on the topics. I hope you'll join me!

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