A year ago, we were headed on our way to Israel. I am thinking a lot about this trip as we start Advent. During the Pentecost season, it doesn’t come up so much. But now I am thinking about Ein Kerem, where Mary sung the Magnificat, where John was born, and Zechariah sung the Benedictus. I am thinking about poor Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity. I am thinking about sitting there in the Shepherds’ Fields on the outskirts of Bethlehem. Sometimes I wish I could just fly back there myself, not having to go through any of the hassle of being on a 12 hour airplane flight, but just apparate there maybe and sit there in wonder, unnoticed. And then go home again.
Last year, we got to go and confront the history of our Lord in person. We got to see where He was born, where He lived, where He died, and where He rose again. Knowing that none of it looked the same did not take away the joy that I felt just being near to the same air that He was thousands of years ago. There were moments amid the busyness of being on that trip that allowed for quiet contemplation, though I longed for more.
The best thing about this new church year is that Advent is fresh again. I am seeing it through new joy and new enthusiasm. We are able to slow down a bit this Advent season, not go on any trips, but just be together. I have a job in the church office now, so I am in church for both Advent services every week. I am hearing the preaching of Christ promised and born for us through the mouth of a new pastor, and so it is joyful and new to me again. And best of all, I can add in the memories of our trip last year. When Pastor talked about the Benedictus last Wednesday, I was thinking in gladness about Ein Kerem, where John the Baptist was born.
So make time for quietness and contemplation during Advent. Here are some things I like to do:
- Attend Advent services. So much joy!
- Listen to Advent/Christmas music. Some of my favorites are on three albums: The Concordia Seminary Kantorei’s Advent/Christmas CD, “Infant Holy: Christmas with the Seminary Kantorei.” (Don’t tell Pastor Jeff this, but the only reason we called him was because he was in the Kantorei). 🙂 Also Roger Wilcock’s CD “Approaching Christmas” has great arrangements of “O Wisdom Antiphon and Magnificat” as well as “O Magnum Mysterium” and “Carol of the Bells.” I also like the Benedictines of Mary album, “Advent at Ephesus:” Their “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is outstanding.
- Do Advent devotions, and consider studying the Antiphons, starting on the 17th. Here is a great resource: http://steadfastlutherans.org/tag/o-antiphons/
- Eat simpler dinners, like soup, during the weekdays. Save the bigger meals for weekends.
- Try to limit your activities during the weeknights, only do the things you really want to do, or things that involve being with your friends and family. It’s ok to say no; you can’t do every activity offered to you.
- Read your Bible and pray. This is good to do every day, but it’s especially meaningful during Advent.
- Try to get your Christmas shopping done as early as you can, so you can enjoy the Advent season more.
- Read a good book during Advent, perhaps “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe,” “A Christmas Carol,” or maybe Bonhoeffer’s Advent/Christmas sermons. It would even be fun to read the two books above with the kids.
May God bless this Advent season!