So this year, I'm intentionally working on moving toward a Spirit of Advent, and in doing so, trying to bridge the gap that exists in my head between the Christmas season and the Advent season. Although I grew up as an evangelical, I never knew about the Christian calendar. Never followed along with the seasons of my faith. I've never once been a part of an in-person Christian community that does that.
Having just moved to a new city, I am not yet a part of a Christian community I can call my own. (So feel free to send up a prayer about that.) So if you find yourself longing for Advent, but not sure where to start, here's an idea of things you can do on your own (if you're like me) or with a group (if you're where I hope to one day be!)
1. Listen to First Snowfall by Michael W. Smith while driving on a sunny day through a wooded area and watch the shadows dance like ballerinas bathed in sunlit glory rejoicing over what has been glorious in this world, what is currently glorious, and what will one day be glorious.
Emmanuel has come, God is with us.
2. Read Carolina Hinojosa-Cisneros' words about everyday Hope:
Hope looks like crashing on someone’s couch who welcomes you with open arms into her beautiful home.
Hope looks like sharing sacred stories barefoot, on a couch, in an intimate living room, surrounded by light.
Hope looks like an unexpected welcome.
Now go, and unexpectedly welcome someone.
(and really read all of Carolina's words that you can. They often usher me straight into reminders of how I can experience the glory that currently exists in the world.)
Emmanuel has come, God moved into our neighborhood.
3. Explain to a 3-year-old why we have Christmas trees and why Christmas is celebrated, and reimagine the magic of Christ coming to Earth through her eyes.
Emmanuel has come, God is our neighbor.
4. Read Ryan Kuja's Modern Mary: What a Pregnant Refugee Minority Teenager Would Sing Today at MissioAlliance. As he says so perfectly, "Marian doxology invites revolution."
Go read the whole thing, but make sure not to miss this:
I can’t contain my excitement about this!
Out of all people, he noticed me, a poor, pregnant teenager!
Everyone will call me blessed from now on.
God’s love is so much greater than I can even imagine.
He showed his love for everyone, even those society despises,
the LGBTQIA community, immigrants, refugees, the addicted and shamed.
God knows black lives matter; refugees and immigrants are his beloved.
All the people who are seen as less than human, he knows and loves.
He lifts up those who are preyed upon by corrupt politicians,
the hungry, the ones brutalized by the police and ICE, and families without healthcare.
He invites each of us to the table to speak and tell our story, to be heard and known.
The power-hungry perpetrators who care only about their agendas don’t have the last word!
I can sense his presence, holding me and all his children close, faithfully liberating us.
Just as he promised he would.
Emmanuel has come, God fills up the hungry with good things.
5. Recite this blessing prayer from Mujerista Liturgy:
The power of the seed from which the wheat grows.
The power of the earth nurtures the seed and makes it flourish.
The power of the sun that gives warmth and light to the wheat.
The power of the campesinas, campesinos, who care for and harvest the wheat.
The power of the yeast that even if it is small in quantity makes all the dough to rise.
The power of the bread which sustains us and without which there is no life.
The power of this community which in breaking this bread renews its commitment to the people who struggle for their liberation.
This is the milk which comes from our bodies and nourishes life. It is mixed with honey, for milk and honey was the symbol for our ancestors of the promised land, of a better future, of liberation. We bless it by drinking of it for it will sustain us in the struggle.
The gifts of God for the people of God, come and eat joyfully, with the resolution and understanding that we will continue in the struggle and that God will always sustain us if we sustain one another. Come and feast.
(Taken from Mujerista Theology by Ada María Isasi-Díaz)
Emmanuel has come, God invites us to the feasting table.
6. Break bread with someone you never have before. Remembering as you do the prayer above: that God will always sustain us if we sustain one another.
Emmanuel has come, God is with us in our eating and our drinking.
7. Read Rachel Held Evans' Mary, the Magnificat, and an Unsentimental Advent.
"This is the stunning claim of the incarnation: God has made a home among the very people the world casts aside. And in her defiant prayer, Mary—a dark-skinned woman, a refugee, a religious minority in an occupied land—names this reality."
Rachel confesses to being angry and frustrated, and although she wrote this last year, that anger is still there, maybe even ignited even more over the events of 2018.
Emmanuel has come, God is with us in our anger and our frustration.
8. Listen to Dave Matthews' Christmas Song
"Father up above, why in all this hatred do you fill me up with love?" Jesus asks in the song. Indeed with the blood of His children all around us this year, with hate so easy to grasp hold of, may we be full of love, love, love.
Emmanuel has come, God is with us as we soul search.
9. Listen to Lauryn Hill's song To Zion
And be reminded that the joy of our world is in Zion. May we be beautiful reflections of His grace.
Emmanuel has come, God is.
May we be pregnant with hope, expectant with the promise of shalom coming to earth fully and finally with Advent.