When I was a girl, I was raised in a very high church Episcopal parish, that followed very Anglican traditions. And as such, we strictly followed the dogmatic rules of the liturgical seasons, including all the feast days and saints days.
Advent was one of those seasons. Unlike many of my friends, whose families decorated as soon as they could for Christmas, usually around Thanksgiving, our home was stripped of any décor that might be considered flourishment. No flowers, no tablecloths, no extra embellishments. No Christmas Lights and heaven forbid, no Christmas carols were sung. The only exception was the addition of the Advent Wreath and the Nativity Scene minus the baby Jesus and the Wise Men. Those characters showed up later in Christmas and in Epiphany.
The Advent Wreath was always lit after church before we sat down to share a late breakfast, after fasting until after communion. Traditions...
Lighting the Advent Wreath revolved around prayer and reflection and preparation. The true purpose of Advent.
As I got older, I studied more about my Irish and Scottish roots...My Druidism and very Celtic roots became to have more meaning. Add that to my Christian beliefs and it’s quite a mixture of traditions.
Once I was standing on the Scottish Moor, near Inverness, on a very, very dark night, near the Claven Cairn, a once Druid religious site that the Celts then later used for ceremony. Pagan through and through. As I stood there in the mist, I thought about what it must have been like to live during those times, with no electricity and full of superstitious beliefs of spirit gods and fairies.
Winter was especially one of those dark times for early people. Survival was the utmost priority.
Flash forward to the here and now. For me, being a child born in the Dark Days of December, I am a child of the North wind. The Season of Winter for me is a time when the earth has been stripped of its leaves and the ground becomes cold and barren, The comfort of the warm summer sun no longer gives me that healing of my spirit that I need to regenerate with.
Winter forces us to look within, to have insight to our souls. It is a time for intraspection and reflection. A time when we are stripped down from the comforts of the Mother Earth and the plenty she provides with crops and harvest. It is during these months, that we go to our shelves for a taste of that abundance canned in jars or frozen. The taste of canned peaches or the smell of tomatoes when we pop those lids fills us with reminders of the goodness and fullness of Summer. Those monks were very clever when devising our Georgian Calendar. It is no doubt not an accident that they decided that Advent should be during this dark reflective time of the year.
Advent in the Anglican and Episcopal tradition is defined as:
- The beginning of the Church Year.
- It is a time of anticipation, a time of preparation, and a time of remembrance.
- Advent's tone and focus is subdued for an important reason.
A Season of Preparation.
Each year, we look forward to the anniversary of our Lord’s birth. Sometimes we get caught up in the commercialization of the season of Christmas. Which is no wonder, since we are blasted with Christmas so early. Don’t most of us love decorating, seeing all the beautiful lights, sing a jolly Christmas tune before December 25th?
But as our New Testament reading this morning from Thessalonians reminded us,
“Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking”
“Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus.”
A fine, Advent Meditation and Reflection.
Night and Day we pray....This is what Advent should be for us as we prepare our hearts and lives for Jesus.
In our Gospel, Luke uses the Fig Tree as an example of what we can expect. As we all know, In Winter, trees lie dormant, but in the spring as the ground around their roots warms, their sap starts to heat up and fill the tree with new life.
Jesus is like this fig tree and so should our devotion to him be like a tree. We wait with great anticipation for the anniversary of our Lord’s birth. As the days pass through Advent, our anticipation grows and grows like the sap in a tree. Then on that glorious morning, when Christ is born again to us, the tree is in full bloom. Christmas arrives.
Our Gospel continues with one last paragraph which I find very interesting. Luke is giving us some advice. Pay attention. Stay focused. Remain reflective. Remain steadfast in your Christian convictions. Don’t give up. Because if you don’t keep your eye on the ball, you could miss the entire party.
I pray that your Advent brings you time to prepare for the birth of Christ. I pray that it brings light into your life. I pray it brings reflection and personal growth. I pray it brings you Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. Amen