Advent

In our country, Christmas is advertised before Halloween arrives. By the first of December, the Christmas season is in full swing. Holiday parties and greetings are everywhere you go. There is extra food, gifts in the shop windows, concerts, ballets, and more.

How different this is from the traditional Advent. Like the Lenten season before Easter, Advent was a time for fasting and preparation. Preparation for the coming of the Christ was the focus as you contemplated Christ’s first coming and looked forward to His second coming. The hymn, O Come, O Come Emmanuel reminds us of His first coming while Joy to the World anticipates His future return to earth to reign forever.

Advent starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, which was the first Sunday in December. The first Sunday’s theme is hope, hope that our Savior will be born to us, hope in God’s promises to us that He will send a savior, hope that the baby born in a stable will transform the world. This past Sunday, the second Sunday of Advent, the theme was faith. Faith n the promises of God and in His Son, Jesus Christ, who came to take away the sin of the world.

Each day of Advent, there are hymns to sing and Scriptures to read as we hope and believe, pray and prepare our hearts for the coming Messiah. Over the years, my children and I spent time each day reading about the promises of Christ’s coming, starting in the Old Testament and ending in readings about His birth in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.

Advent is from the Latin word, adventus, which means coming. Two ways of counting down the time are advent calendars, where you open a door in a calendar each day of December until the 25th. Also, the Advent wreath is a traditional way of counting down. Each Sunday of Advent, a different candle is lit. The four candles stand for hope, peace, faith, and joy. On the 25th, the center candle, the Christ candle, is lit, signifying that He has arrived.

It is a time to prepare fruitcakes and cookies and other traditional fare, which are then tucked away for the great day to arrive. Christmas trees didn’t become an American and English tradition until the 19th century. For many decades, the tree was put up and lit on Christmas Eve, partly because a live tree doesn’t last long and partly because Christmas itself was not celebrated until then.

There is a song called The Twelve Days of Christmas and we sing about the many gifts that the true love gave to the singer. However, we don’t think about the meaning behind the song. In medieval times, all of the preparation of Advent led to the twelve days of Christmas in which people celebrated the Christmas season. Starting on December 25 and lasting until Twelfth Night, there were feasting and stories and celebrations throughout the twelve days.

Christmas ended when Epiphany, January 6, arrived.

One of the things I often thought I’d like to do is to celebrate the twelve days of Christmas, even if quietly and without big daily feasts and presents, but to save up the celebrating and special treats until the actual day of Christmas and the days following.

This year, as you struggle to buy the presents and prepare the cookies and candies and treats and run around to the various parties, celebrate Advent by spending some time, quietly, reverently, wondering at the coming of the Christ, who came to give His life and save His people. Find time each day to think about that wondrous gift from God and pray and ponder Him in your heart as Mary did. You will find the season has much more meaning as you think about what it really means and how you can know this baby who is the Son of God, the Savior of the world.

Blogs I follow

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I have a variety of interests and therefore tend to read books of many genres and follow several blogs that touch on different topics. Some of the blogs I have been following for years and some I have just recently discovered.

I thought that I would share some of these precious little islands of blessing in the vast sea that is the internet. I’m going to start with one that I just recently found and subscribed to because the author is writing a new post for each day of October. Every single one has spoken to my heart and soul and I wanted to share her wise words with you all:

The posts that have most resonated with me this past week are here and here.

The first one on solitude was especially timely as I have been listening to A Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in which she talks about the importance of finding an hour a day of solitude and silence in order to maintain the wholeness that is so difficult to find in the midst of the many, many requests for our time and energy each day.

“Women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves.”

“I find there is a quality to being alone that is incredibly precious. Life rushes back into the void, richer, more vivid, fuller than before.”

“With a new awareness, both painful and humorous, I begin to understand why the saints were rarely married women. I am convinced it has nothing inherently to do, as I once supposed, with chastity or children. It has to do primarily with distractions. The bearing, rearing, feeding and educating of children; the running of a house with its thousand details; human relationships with their myriad pulls–woman’s normal occupations in general run counter to creative life, or contemplative life, or saintly life. The problem is not merely one of Woman and Career, Woman and the Home, Woman and Independence. It is more basically: how to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life; how to remain balanced, no matter what centrifugal forces tend to pull one off center; how to remain strong, no matter what shocks come in at the periphery and tend to crack the hub of the wheel.”

I have personally found that without at least a few minutes of contemplative time for prayer, reading, and thinking, my mind and heart can easily crumble in the onslaught of the mass of “to do’s” and “oughts” each day. However, when I take that hour or even fifteen minutes to stop, to think, to pray for strength and wisdom, then am I able to meet the onslaught with grace, knowing that my Good Shepherd is leading and will supply my every need in the midst of life’s demands.

Let me encourage you to carve out a few moments of solitude today to think, to pray, to read Scripture, to life your heart in thanksgiving for all of the blessings in your life. Even if the only solitude you can get is the three minutes in the bathroom while the baby and toddler are in the playpen (I remember those days!) it will be worth it, I promise you.

Linda also had posts on Scripture reading plans and journaling, which were thought-provoking and wise. I hope she speaks to your heart as she has to mine.

A quote from Charles Spurgeon

If God gave us favours without constraining us to pray for them we should never know how poor we are, but a true prayer is an inventory of wants, a catalogue of necessities, a revelation of hidden poverty. While it is an application to divine wealth, it is a confession of human emptiness.
~~C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening Oct. 11

“Until Our Great Change Shall Come”

 

 GRANT unto us, Almighty God, of Thy good Spirit, that quiet heart, and that patient lowliness to which Thy comforting Spirit comes; that we, being humble toward Thee, and loving toward one another, may have our hearts prepared for that peace of Thine which passeth understanding; which, if we have, the storms of life can hurt us but little, and the cares of life vex us not at all; in presence of which death shall lose its sting, and the grave its terror; and we, in calm joy, walk all the days of our appointed time, until our great change shall come— Amen.  –-George Dawson (1821-1876)