Preparing for Advent 2013...

After yesterday's quiet time for reflection and tea, I headed over to our Sanctuary this morning to help others set up for the start of Advent. I LOVE the Advent season - a time for contemplation - even if I'm not very good at it.  Like Jan Richardson says, one of the under-appreciated blessings of Advent is that it always comes back to us whether we're ready for it or not.  Like God's grace, its return is a call to repent and go a little deeper into the quiet.

We still had some cleaning up to do after the concert on Thanksgiving Eve - 20 mic stands to put away and amplifiers to move - as well as "dress the hall" in the deep blues we cherish during this season.  "Who is going to help you?" Di queried as I was leaving.  "Who knows?" I said hoping it wouldn't be just me.  And it wasn't:  I had 6 other great helpers and we wrapped it all up in under an hour.  That gave me time to revise my worship notes for Advent I and take the puppy for a romp out in the wetlands.

Walking through the brown fields that are sprinkled with a light, dry snow took me back to these words of Jan Richardson (whose book Night Visions we are using to guide Advent worship this year.) She writes:

Each year, early in the fall, the voices begin clamoring to tell us what we want... we rail at the commercialism of Christmas even as we sometimes get caught up on it.  But these voices will never tell us what we really want, what we really long for, what we desire with heart and soul. Those who have sat in the darkness know how the shadows give way to desire. Without sight, without our heads swimming with the images of what others tell us we want, we can turn our gaze inward and search our souls. What speaks to us? What calls to us? What dreams have we buried? What wounds cry out for healing? What longs to be born in us this season? What is the yearning which we have have not dared to name? Our desires reveal to us what we think about God, about ourselves and about the world... 

So into this season, I journey with questions:  what and whom do I desire?  Do my desires spring from a longing for wholeness or from a sense of inadequacy? Do they come from within me or from what others say I should want? Will the things I long for bring healing to others as well as to myself?  Will my desires draw me closer to God? Do I really believe the Holy One desires me, loves me unconditionally and longs for me?

It was comforting to decorate the Sanctuary with others who also love Advent.  They are humble and loving people who also have an artist's sensibility about how the visual can unlock the heart's deepest desires. So we cloaked the pillars in deep blue.  We placed the little tree behind the Communion Table. And added a massive wagon wheel before the Advent Wreath, reminder of the ancient practice of taking a wheel of the cart during the winter so that everyone would have to slow down and stay inside for a spell.

And so it begins for us all: o come, o come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel.

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