I don’t remember all the details of why I started celebrating Advent. Maybe it was because of the advent wreath at church that looked like the one from my American Girl Doll’s St. Lucia Christmas outfit, or maybe it was because I had watched Little Women quite a few times and loved how their Christmas felt with fire and singing. Either way I had decided to celebrate Advent, it was perfect because for the first time in my life I had the entire room to myself. That meant every night in December I would say goodnight to my family and make sure they all thought I was in bed. I would get up and walk over to my dresser where I would light a candle. (My 7th grade teacher had taught me that lighting a candle is a good way to remember and symbolize the Holy Spirit is present, plus Jo did it.) Then I would sing. Mind you, I do not by any means have a good voice. In fact, at Sunday worship I am constantly fluctuating between the mens and women’s parts because neither seems to fit my voice. But either way, I would Sing a Christmas Hymn, ok usually just the 1st verse and chorus because that was all I could remember, then I would just hum. When I finished I would open my advent calendar eat the chocolate designated for that day. I could imagine I looked silly and a few times I laughed at myself and the thought that someone watching me might think I was crazy but with all that aside this 24 days of candle lighting and songs one of my most treasured memories and Christmas felt more like Christmas that year.
Now that I am older I notice that Christmas sneaks up on me, and many of the feelings I used to have seem absent. After reflecting on this I realized it was because I was missing the anticipation. That time of preparation in itself is such a gift. So in my extreme fashion I decided to celebrate advent again and try to recreate the closeness I felt at that time. Not with one advent calendar but with three. First, the traditional chocolate one my parents always buy for me. The second for myself which I put all 5 scripture readings from the Book of Common Prayer, I was going to be disciplined and get close to God. And lastly, one for Pedro, my husband.
My new friend Angie had encouraged me to do the one for Pedro. She thought it would be good to be deliberate about adoring our husbands. I thought this was a good idea since I rarely take the time to encourage Pedro at things he does well. Plus, Angie and I are just becoming friends and I wanted to make a good impression. The day before Advent began we wrote 24 encouraging notes for our husbands and put a chocolate in each envelope. I had trouble because I noticed most of mine were less encouragements and more about myself. “ Pedro you make me feel like…” No, that wasn’t right. This was supposed to be about him.
Only in the last few days, being days behind in my Advent reading and feeling guilty, it has dawned on me that Angie got it and I didn’t. Advent is about taking the time to get the focus off ourselves and get excited about something bigger that is coming. It makes Christmas feel more like Christmas because we have taken the time to look at the person we are celebrating. It wasn’t my diligence about doing the singing every night as a child that made me feel close to God, it was that I was singing truths about God back to Him. It was selfless. I was unabashedly singing these songs that millions of people have sung for generations about the truth of who Christ is and what he has done. Some may say Advent is legalistic but I have found there is such freedom in it. It is like my childhood Role Model Amy Grant says on her 1993 classic album Age to Age:
“Sing Your Praise to the Lord, come on everybody, stand up and sing … one more Hallelujah. Give your praise to the Lord, I can never tell you, just how much good that is gonna do ya just to sing.”
(I wish we had a video tape of my sisters and my choreographed dance to this but please enjoy this song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIPRSzVHfCM )