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So, Christmas is coming again, huh? I was just remarking to my EfM group last night that I don't think I've experienced a single Christmas where I wasn't either a teacher or a student. Or if I did, I was probably a very new parent at the time. So at the time when I hear others talking about how they've done all their shopping already, or are at very least finishing it up, I'm in the midst of end-of-the-quarter/semester frenzy. "Soon..." I will quietly reassure myself. "Soon, I will be finished with what I'm working on, and will be able to turn my attention to the holidays."

But at the point when I am finally able to do that, some two weeks out from Christmas, all the ads are urging me to check out some "last minute gift ideas".

Last minute? No, this is hardly last minute--and believe me, I've done last minute! I've shopped on Christmas Eve more times than I can count. But still, those messages are out there, gently scolding me for not getting started sooner. (They have to do it "gently", of course, because they still want me to buy stuff).

And I say back to those messages, maybe not gently, but quietly, "Bite me."

The season of Advent is about waiting and preparing. The pre-Christmas frenzy of consumerism is about preparing, in rushing around, getting ready for the big day sense, but Advent is about preparing our hearts. I say this, not just to you, the readers, but as a way of reminding myself.

The liturgical season of Advent started yesterday, and I decided that this year, for the first time, we are going to do a nightly Advent ritual. I have always liked the idea of family rituals, but have never made a serious effort to start one and stick with it. Given the diversity of our family, though, I can't just take a pre-packaged ritual "off the shelf", but pretty much have to make one up.

I was raised Catholic, and am now Episcopalian. Demetrius was raised by Evangelical parents, but does not practice any faith tradition now (except, in a tongue-in-cheek way, the Church of the Restful Sabbath.) He appreciates hearing people share their stories from the journey. Humans are united in their search for meaning, wanting to make sense of the big picture, find reason for hope in dark times...

Son in Ohio, now 13, has been an "unbeliever" to some degree or another, almost from birth. His unbelief seems to be in inverse proportion to his perception that others to convince him to believe something, so I never push. But he's watched things like National Geographic Channel's Science of the Bible. We've talked, over the years, about the various "holidays of light" that are celebrated at this literally dark time of year. And we've talked about how there are some stories that are "true on the inside", whether or not one believes they are true on the outside, i.e., actually happened.

Daughter in Ohio, 11, has always been more religiously oriented than her brother. She doesn't attend Sunday school, but has been part of a church children's choir for 4 years. It's at a different church than the one I attend, which is kind of a hassle, I guess. In a perfect world, maybe our family would have a common place of worship. But  it feels right to give everyone the space to do what best feeds their spirit/soul. I finally found a church that feels like "home" to me, but it's not the church that has the children's choir for my daughter, so we split our time between the two.

Yesterday was the first Sunday of the month, so she sang with her choir group:

Light one candle for hope, One bright candle for hope.
He brings hope to every heart, He comes, He comes...

Whether or not you believe that the biblical story of Jesus "really happened", there is something universal about the "hope in a dark time" theme at this time of year. That's one of the things I said last night as we lit the first candle on our makeshift Advent wreath. And I read part of the nativity story in Luke, emphasizing this verse:

But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.

And I said, whatever we believe, or don't believe, I think it's important at this busy, sometimes sensory-overloading time of year, to take time to ponder.

Originally posted to Renee in Ohio on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 08:07 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  P.S. (16+ / 0-)

    By the way, the quarter is not yet over--I still have to put finishing touches on an exam and grade some papers today. And I guess I need to run to the grocery store, because Demetrius is on a tight deadline and probably won't be able to get out. So I don't know yet what poem or song or piece of writing we will be pondering when we light our candle tonight, and am open to suggestions. ;)

    •  Hope and vigilance... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      joynow, epcraig

      Advent is also a time for watchful waiting -- preparing ourselves for the coming of salvation.  To me, this means trying to get our acts together -- respecting ourselves; loving each other; protecting our environment.

      Good luck with the end of the quarter.  I totally empathize.  My students are hitting the busiest time of their semester -- and my life will get a bit crazy before the holidays.

  •  indian advent (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    epcraig

    this might be interesting to y'all.  i didn't read much of it, but it was written by a religious scholar living in india.

    it's good to hear people still take time to think about advent!

    it's a round world, last time i checked. - bill hicks (-8.00, -7.18)

    by liberalsouth on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 09:06:09 AM PST

  •  thank you for the advent wreath (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    epcraig, el dorado gal, marykk, DWG

    maybe we need advent more than we need what Christmas has become.  

    Because Christmas has expanded forward in time, when it comes there is more of a sense of staggering across the finish line (after being behind for all of December)...rather than a sense of culmination or wonder.

    Advent is a season I almost never have "time" for...but your post is welcome because you call it to mind.  What are we hoping for? and Why does it matter?
    This is what Advent calls out about.

  •  Light one candle (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    epcraig, papercut, DWG

    A 4 to you for EfM... some day I hope to do that.
    OTOH here's another perspective on the meaning of the candle

    LIGHT ONE CANDLE
    Peter Yarrow- ©1983 Silver Dawn Music ASCAP

    Light one candle for the Maccabee children
    With thanks that their light didn't die
    Light one candle for the pain they endured
    When their right to exist was denied
    Light one candle for the terrible sacrifice
    Justice and freedom demand
    But light one candle for the wisdom to know
    When the peacemaker's time is at hand

    chorus:
    Don't let the light go out!
    It's lasted for so many years!
    Don't let the light go out!
    Let it shine through our love and our tears.

    Light one candle for the strength that we need
    To never become our own foe
    And light one candle for those who are suffering
    Pain we learned so long ago
    Light one candle for all we believe in
    That anger not tear us apart
    And light one candle to find us together
    With peace as the song in our hearts

    If Jesus came back today, He would have been born in the Superdome

    by sayitaintso on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 10:39:16 AM PST

  •  For hope, peace, mercy, and love (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    joynow, epcraig

    Thank you, Renee, for this reminder.

    A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. - Aristotle

    by DWG on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 08:20:00 PM PST

  •  Thanks for the reminder. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    joynow

    In this season with death and destruction and hopelessness around, a light of hope in the darkness is much needed.

  •  This is lovely (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    joynow

    While my husband has been working on his Master's degree in theology, I've been learning more about religions other than Christianity.

    Several members of our family practice Native American spirituality. Our much-loved sister-in-law is Jewish. I'm now working with a team in India, while several co-workers and students have been of various religions including Wicca, and Buddhism.

    It is ironic that many of the people who practice different faiths display more traits of a "good Christian" than many of the so-called "religious right." Because that group of hypocrites has put such a bad light on Christians in the US, I have been making a special effort to be a better person.

    Like one of my favorite hymns goes, "They will know we are Christians by our love," I will continue to try to show a caring spirit to all. Your reminder of the special meaning of Advent is much appreciated, and I really like the idea of putting an ecumenical flavor in your family's celebration!

    One nation, under surveillance, no liberty, nor justice for us

    by SisTwo on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 11:05:28 PM PST

  •  Thank you for the grounding, I needed it n/t (0+ / 0-)
  •  Don't forget Epiphany (0+ / 0-)

    The sad part of the Christmas season for me is the rush to end it abruptly on Day 1. Christmas is a 12-day feast, and we just break it off in our culture. I suppose this is ignorance, but I wish we could stretch it out a little. I always try to. We try to celebrate Twelfth Night in some fashion in our house.

    Thank you for this essay! This meditation came at a perfect time for me and evoked a resonance. Last night I was in Target, seeking a common seasonal decorative accessory (not a tree). They were sold out of them. In fact the whole department looked stripped and depleted. On December 4. I was stunned. At this rate they'll be breaking out the Valentine's Day stuff next week.  Who decides this marketing calendar insanity? Why do we, the people, cooperate?

    My family follows almost the same pattern as yours, except I was always Episcopalian and my husband is a "non-practicing" Catholic. Non-religious daughter is the older one, religious son is younger (and a choir member!), although both are adults now.

    I always love the very early part of Advent, the anticipation, the color (purple!), singing "Lessons and Carols"  - before things get rushed and crazy.

    Peace to you, and good luck with the end of the quarter.

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