Today begins another Advent season, and marks the start of another year in the liturgical calendar (for the non-Celtic, anyway). Advent for me always seems to be a time of refocusing, of regaining my center. This can be facilitated in a variety of ways, but becoming a little more intentional about some of the habits and practices of the faith is one of the best ways to go about this, but simply being more mindful is a great first step as well. There are a lot of great Advent resources online, including my 2007 Advent Series, which includes not only my posts, but links to all the posts in a Synchroblog I organized that year with eighteen other bloggers. On the summary page, I’ve also listed a number of other related posts and resources collected at that time. That was the year I wrote and release my first book, That You Might Believe: Praying Advent with the Gospel of John. Continually though, one of the best sources of online Advent materials is Christine Sine, who recently posted about Celebrating Advent with Kids, Daily Bible Readings For Advent, and has now posted her annual Advent video, The Coming Of the Lord is Near.
I haven’t posted much along the theme of Advent during the season this year… quite a departure from what I did last year during Advent. It being already well into the evening now (at least where I’m posting from), I thought I would share some excerpts from the Compline for the third week of Advent taken from my book, That You Might Believe: Praying Advent with the Gospel of John. The book includes some original prayers and many others taken or adapted from a variety of sources, as noted below.
This morning I’ve got my feet up on my desk, my wireless keyboard in my lap. A cup of fair trade organic decaf Peru Panachi sits nearby, freshly brewed and French-pressed. I am taking time to consider Advent. It isn’t that I have time, or that I make time… I haven’t the surplus time today or this week, and I cannot manufacture time. I cannot even manage time — it marches on relentlessly no matter what I may try to do about it. But I can choose what to do with my time, moment-by-moment. And this morning it seems that a bit of reflective time would be wise stewardship of the time — the gift of time that I’ve been allotted today. Yesterday I began reading God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas, and I anticipate a few pages each day through the rest of the season before me, and up to Epiphany. Epiphany — it seems so far off, yet it isn’t. Time will pass and it will be here before I know it. The last year has passed on as well, thanks be to God.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent for 2008, and we mark the first day of a new year in the liturgical calendar. Last year during this season, I added to my series Then Sings My Soul: The Hymns of My Youth by drawing in the Advent-themed hymns that fit into my Advent blogging program. This year I don’t have a formal blogging program planned for Advent, so I’ll be adding Christmas carols to the list. The church I grew up in did not mark Advent or observe the liturgical calendar at all, so there were simply Christmas carols for the weeks leading up to Christmas. This week’s entry was written by Phillips Brooks in 1867. There are alternate tunes for the carol, but the original and probably most familiar is the one by Lewis Redner, who was Brooks’ organist at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The tune came to him on Christmas Eve, and was first sung the next day.
Last fall in considering a missional order, I did some writing on the topic of shalom. This is a significant theme in the Bible — its basic meaning is “well-being,” but it has a wide semantic range that can stress particular nuances, including totality or completeness, fulfillment, maturity, soundness, wholeness, community, harmony, tranquility, security, friendship, agreement, and prosperity. Theologically, it is one of the most significant terms in Scripture — in translating it as “peace,” we refer not merely to time between wars nor happy thoughts of contentment. In thinking of “peace” as we often consider it, we short-change this word of much of its meaning.
God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas (Greg Pennoyer and Gregory Wolfe, Editors) is a handsome volume that fell into my hands yesterday. Featuring contributions from Scott Cairns, Emilie Griffin, Richard John Neuhaus, Kathleen Norris, Eugene Peterson, and Luci Shaw, the book is an “invitation to live the church year” by walking daily through the first three seasons of the calendar (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany). Various authors and poets offer daily reflections which are printed on heavier-than average gloss paper alongside various works of art in full colour. Interspersed among the reflections are a set of histories of the feast days by Beth Bevis.
With Advent just over a week away now, Advent resources are beginning to appear online, including Christine Sine’s New Advent Meditation and planned synchroblogs. I organized a synchroblog last year for Advent, and have collected all the post links for reference as well. I’ve also begun to reread some of my past posts for the season, like Bethlehem and Mixing metaphors, and Kicking your way to the Light. There are also collections of Advent resources appearing online as well.
I’m starting to think on these themes just a little, as the SBT Book of Hours project is getting underway. Oddly enough, Lent was subscribed pretty quickly, with Christmas and Advent falling behind. I didn’t have any particular leaning and offered to fill in where necessary, so drew Vespers during the Christmas season as a result. There’s still an opening left under Advent, so I’m considering that too.
Last year I wrote a piece for Next-Wave on the theme of Advent. We talked a lot about Advent themes last year as I completed my book, That You Might Believe: Praying Advent with the Gospel of John. I’m not sure yet if there are any synchroblogs planned for Advent this year, but I thought I would start taking up the topic a little eary so it doesn’t catch me off-guard like it so often does. Usually the season sneaks up on me before I know it, but this year I’m trying to think ahead. Unless you’re celebrating by the Celtic calendar, of course. In this vein, I thought I’d reprint last year’s Next-Wave article.