Anticipating advent...

One of the treasures of being a pastor is being with others as we go deeper into the faith - and one of my greatest joys comes when people engage the Advent texts and try to discern what the Spirit is saying to our church during this season. Tonight a diverse group of about 10 women and men will take some time for Bible study, conversation and prayer with me as we try to get a sense of where the Christ child is being born within and among us.

+ We will begin with a little quiet music medication - pray some of the traditional collects together - and then look at the texts from both Isaiah and the gospels.

+ My hope and prayer is that a theme will be discerned for us - a theme that will make the ancient texts speak to us now - so that we aren't engaged in either sentimentality or busy work but real spiritual listening.

And once our theme emerges, we will proceed in shaping worship and our Sanctuary space to help us more fully enter the new/old story once again. I look forward to this kind of anticipation of Advent for it is a healing antidote to the Christmas trinkets already being displayed in shops and grocery stores. At the same time, I no longer get all "wiggy" with even the early Christmas displays because they, too, are a sign of the Spirit moving in us even if it is in unfocused or obscure ways.

There is a very interesting "debate" that always pops up during any Advent planning about the use of Christmas music during the season of preparation. For years I was an "Advent Nazi" and simply forbade the use of Christmas songs in worship before the Feast of the Nativity. And I still appreciate the intellectual wisdom of this discipline... but then one day it hit me how artificial this act was - and I'm not simply talking about the way popular culture saturates us with Christmas sounds (mostly schlocky ones) non-stop for months.

No, I mean the way I listen to Carlos Nakai and George Winston and so many other Christmas instrumentalists from Thanksgiving Eve until Epiphany. And I mean the truth of the words of an old rabbi friend who once proclaimed, "Why don't you sing this songs more often, man, they are the best in your house!" And it has something to do with the joy these songs evoke. So, we will respect the tradition this year but there's no room for Scrooge in any of his/her incarnations.

Comments

Black Pete said…
Let's not forget "So This is Christmas", by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the best neo-Christmas song in decades. I'm hoping one day to get that played as an anthem in my wife's church during Advent.
RJ said…
I LOVE that one, too, Pete and did 3 years ago at Christmas in Tucson. U2's "Peace on Earth" is another good one - hard - but right on the money

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