Today begins the last week of Advent, and therefore marks our last Sunday before Christmas. During the past few weeks, I’ve been populating our Advent space with Christmas carols, as the church where I grew up (the -of-my-youth part) didn’t really observe the liturgical calendar, so I knew nothing of Advent until much later. One of the standard carols which appears each year is one that we’ve already had to sing by virtue of one of the Christmas gatherings where we were in attendance. Taking some notes from Wikipedia,
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.
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.
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.
For the record, there are twelve days to the Christmastide season… let the feasting continue! We should know this from the famous Christmas carol, yet these days most of us may just scratch our heads as to what, when, and why the twelve days are. It turns out that the 12 days song actually has some relation to a variety of theological themes. Coming to the point thought, we’ve moved out of the Advent season and into the Christmas season. In my Advent book, I have included an extra set of daily offices for use during the Christmas season… kind of a bonus for those who made the purchase. Although the Advent synchroblog has ended, the daily office and the celebration of Christmas go on. The extra office is designed to keep the Christmas themes present in our minds throughout the season. In the book, I introduced it this way:
Well, here we are. The end of Advent, with week four consisting of two whole days this year! This time out, I’ve got the full text for all the readings for the week all laid out for us. Because of the brevity of Advent IV this year, I’m going to cover it all at once… the first set of readings would have been done yesterday if you’re following the book, and the second set would be done today. It’s a bit unfortunate that we get to spend so little time this year with some of this, but perhaps we’ll return next year… and we can continue reflecting on this week’s theme throughout the Christmastide season. The theme for the week is Love. We’re going to dig deep and find rich treasures… I’m going to dust it off and leave it to every individual to polish it up in their own reflections and meditations. One of the blessings from our prayers this week is from Colossians 2:2-3
I’m making a big departure for this week’s selection in my series Then Sings My Soul: The Hymns of My Youth. I’ve been doing carols for Advent and Christmas connected to my Johannine Advent book and synchroblog, and this week the carol selected in the book wins out over the requirement that it be of my youth. I’ve selected The Huron Carol, and though it predates me by more than a few years, it was never part of my youth; I only discovered the carol as an adult. Most Canadians now will know it from Tom Jackson‘s Huron Carole series of Christmas benefits.
I’m in a bit of a reflective space at the moment. They say (whoever “they” are) that the only constant is change, and perhaps “they” are right. (I think it was Paul Reiser who suggested that “they” is some kind of consortium responsible for pretty much everything, and is headed up by “the guy.”) The nature of change is an interesting beast. I’ve begun reading William Duggan’s new book, Strategic Intuition: The Creative Spark in Human Achievement, published by Columbia Business School. It’s a review copy that I’m supposed to talk about on my other (business) blog, but I’m quite certain I’ll be saying more about it here as well. I’m what, 20 pages in? Already it’s proving to be an excellent work, filled with insight. So far: Copernicus, a contemporary of Martin Luther, the scientific method, and the nature of breakthroughs. Scientific method says that you posit a theory, then test it. If you prove your theory, you have an achievement. Rather notably, the actual method of scientific revolution is basically the opposite: you have an achievement, and then you (or someone after you) forms a theory to explain it.
Now that we come to the second set of readings for this third week of Advent, we find that we’ve left only one verse of the John’s prologue untouched, and we’ve got a full week left before Christmas. The readings get shorter and end with a flourish, but try not to peek ahead to the missing verse. This time up we’ve got John 1:11&13 plus selections from two chapters in Isaiah. Our texts from John speak of the relationship of the Word to the world around him. The world is his creation, and its people are his own… and yet not his own.