The good news of Advent is that if we wait,
while we wait, in the waiting, God comes.
Advent is a season of hopeful anticipation of God’s breaking into our world and our time. It is composed of four Sundays prior to Christmas Day, beginning this year on November 27. Liturgical colors are used for vestments and altar decoration (frontals) to mark the seasons and to symbolize the themes. The color used for Advent is either purple or blue. We prefer blue to represent water – the water over which God’s Spirit moved in Creation (Gen. 1) to begin the process of life and the water of Baptism which is the starting place for all Christians who anticipate the coming of Christ into their lives. The liturgies of Advent are characterized by a sense of the awesomeness of the God for whom we wait. We often use an Advent Wreath of four or five candles, lighting one more each week, to mark the time of waiting. This year at St. John’s, we will be singing a quiet chant while the children sound their chimes as the Advent Candle is lit. Many families have their own Advent Wreath custom at home.
Christmas is the Season when we proclaim the unique nature of our God – that God does not stand aloof from us, but fully enters into our lives. The first liturgy of Christmas is the Eve of that day. At St. John’s, we celebrate this first liturgy of Christmas at 6pm on Christmas Eve, and it is a joy-filled time of being together, looking inward and looking outward. The season of Christmas lasts for 12 days, beginning on the 25th and ending on the 12th night, or January 5th. The color used in Christmas liturgies is white, symbolizing purity, joy, and hope.
In our world today, our culture bombards us with images of a perfect Christmas that is obtainable if one spends the “right” amount of money on the “perfect” gift. St. John’s would like to offer support for alternative ways to celebrate new or on-going traditions of simplicity and meaning during this Advent and Christmas Season. How can one find new ways to celebrate these seasons in a way that deepens our faith, deepens our relationships with each other and the world, and deepens the Advent/Christmas meaning? A good first step would be to begin the discussion: how can we celebrate this year? What new traditions can we create? What treasured traditions do we hold dear? What does this look like as our children are now adults? What can this mean for families with young children or for families with no children? Here are a few examples to consider:
- The Nickles/Woods family has decided to forego giving each other gifts this year. They will fill stockings for each other with small, personal, meaningful things. They will also carry on their tradition of exchanging Christmas Cards with each other and sharing this exchange as a family.
- Another St. John’s Family, the Tillotsons, have continued to enjoy a tradition that Angela’s grandparents initiated. It’s a competition of sorts, with participants making ice cream balls (usually vanilla with coconut) that have a candle in the center. The competition is to see whose candle stays lit the longest. The winner is pronounced King or Queen for the year and presented a crown made out of an ice cream bucket decorated with tinsel . Their picture is taken and their name is added to a scroll which lists previous winners.
- Another way to create memories is to travel together as a family in lieu of gifts, with the focus on spending time together. This could be as simple as planning day trips to spending days away.
- Another tradition, in lieu of gifts, is to make a donation to a favorite charitable organization in a loved one’s name. Locally, this could include Powell Valley Loaves & Fishes, the local Marine Toys for Tots, the Senior Center, the Moyer Animal Shelter, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. Globally, this could include Heifer International (they work in the areas of livestock and agriculture to develop programs that alleviate hunger and poverty), the Humane Society, the ASCPA, St. Jude’s Children Hospital, etc. The important idea is that it is a place of great meaning to the person in whose name the donation is being made.
- Buy socks! Socks are the #1 most requested item at homeless shelters. This fact is the driving force behind Bombas. Bombas exists to help solve this problem, to support the homeless community, and to bring awareness to an under-publicized problem in the United States. Visit them here for more information.
- A donation of time is also important, especially to volunteer your time along with your kids, partner, or loved one. Spend some time visiting at the nursing home. Help sort and organize food items at Powell Valley Loaves and Fishes. Call the Moyer Animal Shelter and see how you can help with cleaning the animal cages, walking the dogs, or other specific needs they may have.