Preparing for the Preparation - On Entering Advent

Advent begins Sunday.  Until last night, I was all hyped up on Thanksgiving and shopping, watching Facebook friends share their Christmas decorating and Hanukkah photos, and, to be honest, not really looking forward to entering into a season of waiting.  In my struggle to get into the spirit, I came across an article I wrote a couple years back for Working Preacher:  "Advent's Absurdity ", which helped me remember why we celebrate Advent.  And that it meets us wherever we happen to be when it comes.

Today I feel myself slowing down a bit, and easing in. So I thought I would share some ways to enter into Advent. 

Advent Wreath - In my house we light a candle in our Advent wreath each Sunday.
week 1 - Hope
week 2 - Peace
week 3 - Joy
week 4 - Love
We talk at dinner about what those things mean, where we see them, how we need them in the world. What it feels like when we experience them. Mostly it's a chance for conversation, and the candles remind us each week.

Advent Calendars - My kids have advent calendars- I put candy in little doors/drawers and little figures of the nativity scattered throughout, so they make a nativity scene gradually in the coming weeks.  

Advent Books - A friend wraps children's books (from the library?) and numbers them, one for each day of Advent, and her family opens and reads one daily in a countdown to Christmas.

There are books that have a little part to be read each day - or find a good storybook you like and read a little bit each night. We've found a big book with tiny book ornaments telling the Christmas story, one for each day, and we (mostly remember to) read and hang them on our tree.

Chains / crafts / projects - Making a paper countdown chain is another idea - ripping off a link each day and using it as an opportunity to say something we're thankful for, or sad about and want God to help with, or anything you want them to be. You could write a question on each one and have a conversation for each link. Or put on each one a person's name, or a place, or something else to hold in prayer together.

Pausing - Our church will be giving out 2 minute sand timers, to help people take two minutes a day to just stop and pay attention. To sit quietly in the presence of God with no agenda but simply to be.

What works for you this year? - There are SO MANY ways to celebrate, and what works for each family or person will be different.  

It comes down to this: Christmas celebrates that God came to share life with us - all of it, the good and the bad, and we are not alone. Anything we can do to remember that, or notice that we need that, or give thanks for that, or whatever else, is a good Advent practice. Anything that gets us more deeply connected with life and each other, is a chance to notice and celebrate God With Us.Take the pressure off yourself.  Enter in as much as you are able in any way you are able. 

Here are some more great resources for entering into Advent:  

ADVENT RESOURCES - (mostly adult, some whole family)

 Following the Star - daily online Advent devotional
Advent Music Project - song a day with reflection
Advent Photo-a-Day - join in and post photos on themes throughout Advent
Advent Conspiracy - help focusing on Advent
Alt Advent - wonderful daily mini-films from artist Jon Birch (purchase)
Coming Home to Advent - Godspace blog's daily Advent devotional
Taking Advent Home - pdf Advent booklet with scripture readings, reflections and activities
Advent in Art - Mark Pierson's daily advent reflections in art
Illuminated - online retreat with Jan Richardson daily through Advent (subscription)
Inconsolable Longings - reflections on Advent (using O Antifons) from Malcolm Guite
Advent Quiet Wednesdays - (In Minneapolis) at Lake Nokomis Pres, a place of peace and rest
God's Light in the Darkness - online, lectionary-based Advent reflections (More will be added as they come to my attention - feel free to check back.  Also, try following #advent on twitter and Facebook and see what comes up)!

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