Tuesday December 1, 2009

First week of Advent, 2009

Come, thou long-expected Jesus,

born to set Thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in Thee.

Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth Thou art:
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
born a Child, and yet a King,
born to reign in us for ever,
now Thy gracious kingdom bring.

By Thine own eternal Spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by Thine all-sufficient merit
raise us to Thy glorious throne.

~Charlies Wesley, 1744

Isaiah 9:1-7

Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed,
      As when at first He lightly esteemed
      The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
      And afterward more heavily oppressed her,
      By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan,
      In Galilee of the Gentiles.
       The people who walked in darkness
      Have seen a great light;
      Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
      Upon them a light has shined.
       You have multiplied the nation
      And increased its joy;
      They rejoice before You
      According to the joy of harvest,
      As men rejoice when they divide the spoil.
       For You have broken the yoke of his burden
      And the staff of his shoulder,
      The rod of his oppressor,
      As in the day of Midian.
       For every warrior’s sandal from the noisy battle,
      And garments rolled in blood,
      Will be used for burning and fuel of fire.
       For unto us a Child is born,
      Unto us a Son is given;
      And the government will be upon His shoulder.
      And His name will be called
      Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
      Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
       Of the increase of His government and peace
      There will be no end,
      Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
      To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
      From that time forward, even forever.
      The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

This year, we are again using the Advent Calendar that I made last year out of crocheted mittens. Since Advent can be 22 to 28 days long depending on the year, most years there will be some empty mittens. This year Advent began on November 29th, and we have just two empty mittens. Last year, each mitten held a tiny piece of paper with a Scripture reference as well as two small candies. This year, each mitten simply holds three chocolates – Lindt Lindor truffles, to be precise. And instead of “just Scripture” we are going through an Advent devotional book together in addition to reading small portions of Scripture. So each evening, just before bedtime, we gather on the couch – that part is usual, since it is where we usually sit together for evening family worship. The subject matter is different, as we take a break from our usual readings (we have lately been in Samuel) and focus on this season in the Church year. And the extra special catch is that there is chocolate involved, between the readings and the singing. Gabriel will start catching on to this added twist in our liturgy very soon – and after Christmas he will most certainly wonder where the chocolate has gone. 🙂 On Sundays (and Christmas!) we will be lighting our Advent wreath as well: we have four white candles for the four Sundays of Advent, and one red candle for Christmas morning (instead of the traditional lavender, pink, red, white).

Advent marks the beginning of the Church year. The word Advent is from the Latin adventus (parousia in Greek) for “coming” or “arrival”, and we focus on Jesus’ past, present, and future presence.
* History: Jesus was a real person born in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago ~ that was His first Advent.
* Mystery: Jesus is always with us through the gift of grace. Grace is a sharing in God’s own life and love that we cannot understand but believe in through faith.
* Majesty: Christ will come again—the Second Advent—in glory at the end of time.

Our worship, scripture readings, and prayers not only prepare us spiritually for Christmas (His first advent), but also for His eventual second advent. This is why the Scripture readings during Advent include both Old Testament passages related to the expected Messiah, and New Testament passages concerning Jesus’ second coming as judge of all people. Also, passages about John the Baptist, the precursor who prepared the way for the Messiah, are read.
(i.e. Isaiah 2:1-5,7:10-14, Jeremiah 33:14-16, Zephaniah 3:14-18, Micah 5:2-5a, Matthew 24:37-44, Romans 13:11-14)

Our celebration of Advent is a lovely time for us as a family to focus on feelings of exile, expectation, preparation, hope, anticipation, longing ~ things that certainly are near to us right now. We are waiting for the Lord. It makes Advent very real, very personal, extra meaningful to us right now.

Advent is a season of preparation, but we need to ask ourselves, “what are we preparing for?
Advent is a season of expectation, but we need to ask ourselves, “what are we expecting?
Advent is a season of hope, but we need to ask ourselves, “for what and whom do we hope?

Did you know that Advent is not part of the Christmas season itself? Advent is a season prior to Christmas. The Christmas season begins (according to the Church calendar) with Christmas, and concludes with Epiphany. That is where the 12 days of Christmas originated. Pretty nifty, eh? 🙂 Christmas is not meant to be a single isolated day, but a feasting festival of the Incarnation in the midst of the Church year. Christmas is perhaps best understood after having the preparation of Advent. Advent provides an opportunity to continually re-orient ourselves to God’s will as we expectantly wait with patriarchs, prophets, and kings for the true meaning of Christmas: the Incarnation of God the Son. As the church celebrates God’s inbreaking into history in the Incarnation, and anticipates a future consummation to that history for which “all creation is groaning awaiting its redemption,” it also confesses its own responsibility as a people commissioned to “love the Lord your God with all your heart” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Two links for your perusal:
one with practical information, readings, references, ideas, and inspiration
another with Luther’s flair, as selections from his sermons focus on the seasons of Advent and Christmas

God bless you all during this first week of Advent.
Long, expect, prepare, hope ~ anticipate the coming of Christ.

3 Replies to “Tuesday December 1, 2009”

  1. Thank you so much Melissa, for posting all this information and links! We are trying to incorporate advent this year into our family worship and I wasn’t sure quite where to begin so this really helps. I really don’t know much about advent so I appreciated the history you gave. I have also been reading about the Jesse Tree…do you know what relation the Jesse Tree has with advent? 

  2. Oh you’re definitely welcome, Charlotte. 🙂 We hope to do more hands-on things for Advent in the future as Gabriel gets older and can participate more concretely ~ a Jesse Tree is probably a great way to do that. So while we haven’t done one yet ourselves, I do have some information bookmarked on it.
    From what little I know, the Jesse Tree points stems from Isaiah 11:1, where basically it is prophesied that the Messiah will be descended from Jesse through David. I know that throughout history (it looks like as early as the 11th century, but maybe not before?) Jesse Trees have been pictured in various art forms. I guess I don’t know (I haven’t read through the links I have in a while) how it became a specific Advent tradition, but it makes sense to me ~ following the line of Jesus, following the prophesies in the Old Testament, to point to the Incarnation, which is of course where Advent leads us. It seems like a good, hands-on way to show both adults and children the cohesiveness of Scripture, and how it all connects to the Advent of Christ.
    I have friends who have made super simple Jesse Trees with their kids, letting the kids collect sticks, and then putting the sticks in a large vase (probably with sand or stones in the base); and each day of Advent they add an ornament to the “tree” (which is just a vase full of sticks). Each ornament is a circle of paper (hung by a little loop of string), with the various symbols/pictures which each represent part of the Christian story (well, specifically to show God’s plan in the Old Testament) and correlate with readings.
    I will just include the links I have here in the comment, in case they would be helpful to you.
    Whatever Wikipedia knows 🙂
    A random church’s collection of Jesse Tree info
    Info about making a Jesse Tree yourself
    This one is good if you want the readings & symbols laid out for you for the dates for Advent 2009!
    A practical application sort of page 🙂

    I hope that is helpful, and not overwhelming. I think it is a really neat Advent tradition to incorporate. If you ever do it, I’d love to know what you and your kids think!

  3. Thank you so much for all those links! December snuck up on me and then this week most of my family is down with the flu so I don’t think I can implement much this year. We will be doing a smaller version of the advent as part of our family worship, but I am going to do my research this year and plan to do something with the Jesse Tree next year. Thanks so much for sharing. Hugs to you! 

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