There is some irony in the fact that Advent – the season of watchful waiting and being prepared – always catches me off guard. As a kid, the advent-of-Advent was marked by the big wreath-making party in the church fellowship hall, and the hanging of the Advent calendar (the doors of which I always wanted to open ahead of schedule) at home. I anticipated Advent almost as much as Christmas. I loved the rituals of the season: the aforementioned calendar-opening; the nightly candle-lighting/Gospel-reading my family conducted (with the little devotional Advent book from the press then known as Fortress); the lighting of Advent candles at the beginning of the church service, edging closer and closer to that big, fancy Christ candle in the center; the song-cycle building toward The Big Day…
Now the first Sunday candle-lighting ceremony in church startles me: “What?! It’s December, already?!” I get anxious about what didn’t get done in the previous months, I spend most of the month fretting about the budget, and resenting the crowds and hassles on the few occasions I venture into stores; I try in vain to summon “the Christmas spirit,” but end up looking forward to Christmas Day mostly as a quiet day off.
Maybe that will change this year: I’m preaching on December 23rd, so I must necessarily immerse myself in the texts in these coming weeks (I take a very long time to write a sermon; I’d be lucky to manage one a month if I tried to do this any more often than I do). Maybe some of those admonitions and pronouncements will get under my skin.
Last year I fantasized about creating an Advent calendar for the blog this year. It didn’t happen. But here’s a nice one from the Society of St. John the Evangelist.
Here’s one that will certainly help raise Christmas – ahem – spirits.
And in lieu of my own Advent calendar offering, I’m going to aim for a daily giving suggestion. Each day – either here on the blog or via Twitter – I’m going to link to a small non-profit group that could use your support. Here’s my suggestion for today: Second Chance in Fort Bragg, CA. Second Chance was co-founded by my “outside reader” on my dissertation committee, Steve Sapontzis. The group works to help low-income families keep their pets, by providing pet food, supplies, flea treatments, and assistance with veterinary bills. It’s a small, low-budget, amazingly effective group. Learn more about them here.
Update: my former classmate Sam Laurent has a wonderful Advent sermon posted here. (Link corrected; apologies to those of you who get an email every time this blog changes! But that was an interesting link error: instead of the sermon, I inadvertently directed you to a great little jam session between Jake Shimabukuro and Char.)