Recently, a friend of mine posted this video about The Advent Conspiracy on Facebook:
It is, in my opinion, a splendid campaign to shake Americans out of this money-hemorrhaging black hole we’ve created during the month of December. (Side note: I say ‘Americans’ because my German friend Kira tells me that Christmas back home is a three-day festival of food and family time, and has very little to do with store-bought gifts) This year, I’ve enjoyed seeing even my most die-hard consumerist friends and family soften towards ideas like homemade gifts and simpler, less expensive holiday traditions, a change I attribute to equal parts Jesus and the recession.
Aside from the main point, though, the video got me thinking about the season of Advent itself. I grew up in a Lutheran church where I remember seeing the Advent candles lit every Sunday in December, but I didn’t have a real understanding of what the tradition meant or why we did it. Since then, I’ve bounced around the religious spectrum with a trajectory not unlike a ping-pong ball and forgot clean about Advent along the way. Now, however, I’ve come to adopt the attitude of St. Augustine when he said that “the Church is a whore, but she’s my mother.” I am part of a wrongly divided and sickly Body of Christ, and I long to see the various parts of that Body worship in unity. In my personal practices, that means appreciating all Christian traditions that are grounded in Scripture and that reflect the heart of God, even if they come from a sect that I don’t totally agree with, or that wouldn’t agree with me.
All that to say: I looked into it, and I really dig Advent.
I think the symbolism is beautiful, and the ritual helps me to take time out to meditate on one of the great mysteries of my faith: the fact that the God of the Universe chose the most humble, contradictory, and intimate way possible to save us from the evil–He became one of us. I think my favorite part about the Advent ritual, however, is the fact that it is one of the few church traditions that takes place both in the corporate congregation and in the home. Every Sunday morning, the priest lights the Advent candle for that week at morning mass, and every Sunday night the head of each household lights the family’s personal Advent candle before supper. When I strayed from the church back in the day, one of my biggest reasons for doing so was my frustration with Christians leaving their Christianity in the pew at the end of each service and refusing to apply any of the principles they were so eagerly nodding their heads to during the sermon to their own lives. The Advent tradition links two worlds that all too often remain separate. It leaks the Gospel from the church doors to the dinner table, exactly as it’s supposed to be.
Since Wayfarers Church currently meets in our living room, our home and church Advent candles are the same. Before digging into some delicious chicken curry I made for dinner, we lit our candle and read aloud the Scripture readings for the first week of Advent. This is the liturgical prayer we read:
Stir up thy power, O Lord, and come,
that by thy protection we may be rescued
from the dangers that beset us through our sins;
and be a Redeemer to deliver us;
Who livest and reignest with God the Father
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
ever one God, world without end. Amen.