Tuesday, December 2, 2008

More on Advent

Advent is one of my favorite times of the year. I enjoy it almost more than Christmas in several ways. I love gathering around the Advent wreath, a simple wooden one that Keith made for us seven years ago -- just an oval wooden plaque with five wooden candle holders glued on -- four around the outer edges and one in the center. I've added silk greenery -- holly strands and some evergreens with purple and silver pears to match the candles. We use the traditional colors of three purple candles, one pink candle, and a center white Christ Candle.

Since we've moved to this house, we have celebrated Advent -- this is our eighth year of doing so. After dinner the kids and I gather at the kitchen table with the Advent wreath in the middle, and each child gets his or her "turn" once every four nights. When it is a child's turn, her or she lights the candle(s), reads the Scripture passage, and chooses the carol we sing (badly), and after we finish at the table, he or she gets to read the Scripture card attached to that day's pocket of the Advent calendar, a large wall hanging made by Keith's sister for us the same year we moved here. The child also gets the candy or small wrapped gift hidden in the pocket after reading the Scripture card. This year I placed either a York peppermint patty or a Reese's peanut butter bell in each pocket. I pray after the Scripture and also read the devotional.

Our devotionals have changed over the years. We started off with Jotham's Journey and Tabitha's Travels which are out-of-print and very hard to obtain. Last year I saw them on e-Bay for close to $100 each! I'm missing the second book in the series but definitely can't afford it. Last year we read a little book called Christ in the Carols that contained the words to a carol, a story about the inspiration of the carol, a Scripture verse, and a short prayer.

This year we are using my own devotional, The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle, a lovely gift from Dru that I am enjoying immensely. I pray the Morning Office, Midday Office, and Compline myself, but we have been doing the Vespers Office for our Advent devotional. It includes several short passages from the Psalms, a longer Scripture passage, the words to an Advent hymn, and closes with the Collect for that particular week of Advent. The Scriptures are from the New Jerusalem Bible which is easy for the kids to understand, and the Collects have been put in slightly more modern language which works well for us.

Here is the Collect for the First Sunday in Advent that we will pray together each night this week:

Almighty God, give us all grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which Your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when He shall come again in His glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through Him who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

I really enjoy gathering around the lit candles in a darkened room, watching our children's faces in the flickering light as we read the Scriptures, pray, and sing together. It's a precious time, and I always hate to see each Advent end, even though Christmas Joy is right around the corner....

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