Tag Archives: Advent

Advent is a season of preparation

Not only do I now own a church, I own a church sign. In the first days of clean-up and demolition, my Beloved found the box of letters to create a new message in the sign so I did what I do best and that’s write.

church sign advent

Today, if you didn’t already know it, is the first Sunday in Advent, and I was inordinately pleased with myself to post this message. Its meaning applies literally to the church season and to the process of cleaning up corners and tearing down walls inside our 119-year-old Methodist church as step one in our renovation project.

In homage to the season (and the double message with new meaning for me this year), I’m reprinting this post from the Minnesota Transplant archive, publishing originally a year ago.

Glory be

While the secular world recovered from a Thanksgiving dinner-induced food coma and then leapt loopily into Black Friday-Small Business Saturday-Cyber Monday (which for many overeager online retailers began on Friday), Christians rang in a new year.

Today is the first Sunday of the liturgical year which is to say the First Sunday in Advent.

Advent is the run-up to Christmas, a liminal season of expectation. But to describe it only as a time of waiting sells Advent short, just as the days between Thanksgiving and Dec. 25 are more than simply an out-of-breath sprint to be endured.

For me, it’s not this time of year without spending some time in church. Sitting (and standing and singing and praying) through a worship service slows down time.

This is not a post about why you should go to church. That’s your call. This is a post about why I go to church. For me, Advent is the best time of year to spend some time in church, to be observant to the reason for the season. Christmas is all crowds and gifts and traditional-in-the-extreme music (let’s just say I’m not a fan of “Silent Night, Holy Night”). Lent, too, is a run-up season, preparing Christians for Easter, but Lent and Easter are solemn. The messages are heavy on crucifixion and death (yes, and rising again, I know, but rising from the tomb).

Advent, though, is news about pregnancy and babies and angels and birthdays. (That Advent also coincides with the countdown to my own birthday is just happy coincidence.)

I went to Catholic Mass last night for the first time in years, maybe even a decade. It was a beautiful quiet service in an enormous church where hundreds of people were doing the same thing I was — celebrating the new church year. I was reminded how lovely is the ritual of Mass, so familiar and universal.

I was once Catholic, but when I got divorced, I reverted to my origin religion, Lutheran. A week ago, I read the scripture lessons for the last time at the Lutheran church where I am a member. I resigned my position as reader in anticipation of moving away. Coincidentally, it was also the last Sunday of the church year.

Serendipity.

I kind of felt like I was throwing off the bonds of responsibility and the old year and the old way of worshiping all at once. Celebrating the new Christian year for me meant Mass in a big, beautiful church. Which is how I found myself last night in church I’d never been in before soaking up Bible readings about waiting and preparation and expectation.

It is the perfect message on which to meditate for a woman waiting (and waiting) to sell her house.

Advent is not an empty time, I was reminded. It is a season of fullness. Because preparing is just as meaningful as celebrating. Anticipation should be as joy-filled as the hullabaloo for which we’re waiting.

Pondering Advent and the imminent celebration of the birth of Christ, I was reminded of a scene I appreciated earlier this year.

nativity-facade

This is the Nativity Façade at the Sagrada Familia, aka the Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family in Barcelona, Spain. The church was designed by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. The structure is so elaborate, it has been under construction since 1882 and remains incomplete. This is the entryway to the church, and I snapped this picture when I had the opportunity to tour it in June. As you might expect, the Nativity Façade is dedicated to the birth of Jesus.

A single figure is itself a fantastic sculpture, and here there are hundreds of them. But let’s look at the central point of interest there, right above the two doorways of entry.

nativity

You can see Jesus surrounded by his mother Mary and Joseph. Check out those two faces peeking around the corners — an oxen and a donkey. Kind of cute, if you ask me. Carved into stone above Joseph’s head are the words “Gloria in excelsis Deo” (you can read Deo clearly in this closeup). That’s Latin for “Glory to God in the highest.”

This sculptured wall is the entryway to the church (inside is entirely amazing experience in itself). But before you even get inside to see it (and, presumably, participate in Mass), this enormous highly detailed art greets you. You could spend days gazing at each sculpture, taking in the meaning, and you’re still outside the building.

That’s Advent. Days of detail, building up to the threshold of Christmas.

Don’t wish it away. Soak it in.

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If you’re interested in more from Minnesota Wonderer/Minnesota Transplant, don’t miss my new blog about renovating the 119-year-old church. Start reading here at ChurchSweetHome.com.

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Greeting of ‘happy holidays’ covers this one, too

Growing up, Mom made a big deal out of advent.

Advent, religiously, is a time of pregnant expectation. From a Latin word that means “coming,” it’s the beginning of the church year starting about four weeks before Christmas when Christians celebrate all the signs that signaled Christ’s birth: prophecies of Christ’s coming, Elizabeth’s pregnancy and John’s birth, Mary’s pregnancy and the run-up to the trip to Bethlehem. Advent is also about the preparation for the Second Coming, when Christ returns to Earth in the final days.

According to Wikipedia, the progression of the season may be marked with an Advent calendar, a practice introduced by German Lutherans. As a family of mostly German Lutherans, we adopted this practice, too.

When I was growing up, I remember lighting Advent candles on a wreathed centerpiece at dinnertime. We would light one more candle each week until all five (including the white one for Christmas) was lighted.

Nephew Logan gets the Dec. 23rd honors this year.

We also had a felt wall hanging in the shape of a Christmas tree with 24 hooks on it and 24 corresponding felt ornaments. My sister, brother and I were always jockeying for position about who got to put up the day’s ornament. In theory, it was always the biggest honor to hang the star at the top of the tree on Christmas Eve, but in practice, the best day of December for me was Dec. 23: My birthday. It didn’t matter which ornament got into which pocket on pretty much any other day, but the baby Jesus was always in the pocket No. 23 because that’s the day this baby was born.

Now that calendar hangs in my sister’s house, and my two oldest nephews began fighting a week ago about who gets to put up baby Jesus on Dec. 23 (“we still do it on that date because of you,” my sister told me — isn’t nice to know some things never change). A compromise was reached by telling them that putting up the last ornament on Christmas Eve is as cool as putting up baby Jesus on Dec. 23.

(Not everyone thinks so, but if we can settle the war that way, then so be it.)

On Christmas, please wish the Savior of the world a happy birthday. But on Dec. 23rd, birthday wishes will be accepted here.