What is Advent? I remember one time someone explaining to me “Advent is like Lent” as if that wouldn’t confuse me further. If you have not already read Chris Schutte’s helpful introduction to the season of Advent, check out his practical explanation of the big picture—Advent: A Week-by-Week Guide to Re-Orienting Our Craving. For the history nerds among us, you can find a very brief history of Advent on The Gospel Coalition.
So, how can we participate? There are lots of ways. Try a google search for your local area’s Advent and Christmas festivities and check out these five Serge favorites:
1. A Daily Emailed Devotional. The Advent Project is run by Biola University’s Center for Christianity, Culture, and the Arts—and it is run very well. Subscribe to their Daily Advent Devotionals for a daily email containing a fresh mix of Scripture, art, poetry, and other beautiful explanations of God’s grace at work in the world. It is something to look forward to as you start your morning or take your lunch break. If you prefer not to cross your devotional life with email, the internet, or anything digital, then check out the daily devotional book Seeking God’s Face: Praying the Bible Through the Year. But set a reminder to actually read it each morning since that is what makes the emailed devotional so helpful.
2. Put On Some Good Christmas Advent Music. I recently tried playing Handel’s Messiah for my toddler Lewis and he insisted we change the song… and the next song… and the next… and so on—vibrato style singing is apparently not his jam. But Lewis is all about the Sandra McCracken’s (and friends’) band Rain for Roots. And actually, so are all of us in the March house. They have an album called Waiting Songs you can stream and buy here. The album emphasizes the waiting aspect of Advent instead of simply jumping the gun to Christmas celebration. Lord knows we are all terrible at waiting (whether it looks like procrastination or impulsiveness) so these songs make such a subject a lot more fun, while still packing profound insights about the biblical story and our daily reality into delightful melodies.
3. Meditative Reading. The collection of writings compiled in Waiting for the Light features a wide array of insightful writing from the likes of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, poets John Donne and T. S. Eliot and Gerard Manley Hopkins, as well as C. S. Lewis, and the former Christianity Today editor Philip Yancey. This book works well on a cozy Sunday afternoon with a journal and the phone on Airplane Mode.
4. Practicing Forgiveness. Whether it is unfair remarks at the Christmas work party, or the way a colleague can pile up work right when our families are expecting our presence at home, or the age-old family feuds that remain barely hidden under the surface at Christmas dinner—there are many occasions for forgiveness between Thanksgiving and Christmas. And forgiveness is an experience that brings us near to appreciating God’s incredible love for us in sending His beloved Son to a rebellious people. With that in mind, Ruth Ann Batstone’s recently-released book on forgiveness called Moving On is becoming a page-turner this Advent for several of us at Serge. It’s practical advice and examples shed light on dark corners of our hearts and our relationships that were hardening through lack of forgiveness. This is quite the opposite of Jesus’ mother Mary whose beautiful, life-wide-open response to God is celebrated in the Advent season. Practicing forgiveness this Advent is a great first step in that direction.
5. Actually Use Your Church’s Advent Guide. Or if your church doesn’t have one, here is one that focuses on the women in Jesus’ genealogy—“his mothers” so to speak—from some friends at Redeemer in Winston Salem. And here is another that includes a great explanation of the candles on the Advent wreath from some friends at Resurrection Brooklyn. Many of us have not participated in Advent for years, if at all, and a guide can come in handy.
Robert Webber said, “Advent is the time when God breaks in on us with new surprises and touches us with a renewing and restoring power.” At Serge, we hope for us and we hope for you that this Advent is one of surprises, renewal, and restoration in your life and the life of your community.