What's Tony Thinking

Advent Meditations Coming


Next week, of course, is Thanksgiving. Early this year, on November 22.

After that it’s full on for Christmas unless . . .

You “keep Advent.”

Advent is the four Sunday season before Christmas. So this year it begins on December 2 and ends on December 23.

I’ve always thought that Advent offered a bit of an alternative, or at least antidote, to the tendency of those pre-Christmas weeks to become pressured and frenetic.

The accents, or themes, of Advent are quieter, more reflective. They include watchfulness, waiting, longing and preparation of heart and soul for new life. Some refer to Advent as a “little Lent,” that is, it is a season for self-examination and repentance. Advent’s hymns tend to be minor key, a contrast with at least some of the Christmas hymns that are more major key. Instead of Christmas’s “Joy to the World” Advent is the plainsong, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” or the call and response of “Watchman, Tell Us of the Night.”

Perhaps the most widely practiced Advent ritual is the keeping of an Advent wreath. A circle of greens with four purple or three purple and one pink candle. The lightening of one candle each Sunday of Advent signifies the drawing near of Christ. But unlike the ceremonial lighting of the town or mall Christmas Tree which is suddenly ablaze at the flip of switch, the Advent light grows slowly and flickers.

This acknowledges and honors a truth of life, that we sometimes wait in the dark, with signs of change coming slowly in their own time, not ours.

This Advent I plan to offer a series of “Advent Meditations” here. My intention is to publish them on Wednesday each week. They will be based on one or more of the Common Lectionary texts for the coming Sunday of Advent. Here’s a schedule:

November 28 Advent Meditation I (for December 2)

December 5 Advent Meditation II (for December 9)

December 12 Advent Meditation III (for December 16)

December 19 Advent Meditation IV (for December 23)

I am hoping that whether you are a Christian or not, a preacher or not, you will find meaning in these reflections. Maybe you’ll even make use of the various “share” functions here to share them with others?

I’m doing this series because I do treasure Advent and its counter-cultural accents. And I enjoy the interaction with the Biblical texts.

As those of you who do preach regularly know the Advent texts are not, in any way, Christmas-y. Which is sometimes a struggle for both preachers and congregations. We want nativity stories and Christmas carols, but Advent says “wait.” Acknowledge the darkness. Await the gift of the light.

Rather than the familiar stories of Mary, Joseph and the manger, the Advent texts tend to be angular, even wild. They remind us that God’s coming often feels more like a disturbance than a warm fuzzy. In one such image, Jesus says that God comes like a thief in the night.

Not a particularly appealing image, unless you imagine that perhaps this holy thief might steal some of the things you and I need to surrender this Advent: a sense of invulnerability or complacency, grudges we’ve stored up or nursed, a heart that has grown hard.

This time of year we tend to gravitate toward the warm glow of little Victorian village scenes. Train sets run through make-believe English towns and snowy villages in the Alps. I enjoy these, but the lessons of Advent aren’t quite so sweet or sentimental. They are rough and challenging as befits a season of spiritual preparation.

So, I invite you to join me for this Advent journey, sharing these weekly meditations. As always I welcome the responses you may wish to send using the “Contact” form at my homepage.

A blessed Advent to you.


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