Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Advent Traditions in Our Home

Last year, I was asked about Anglican Advent traditions. I did a little research and found that the time-honored Advent traditions--the Advent calendars, wreaths, candles, and hymns, the Jesse tree, the creche or manger scene--all are shared by Catholics, Lutherans and other liturgical traditions.

That's because the Church of England, at its formation, hung on to the good stuff from the Catholic Church. Like Luther and the other Reformers, they wanted to purge the church of excesses, but in many areas, they managed not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. They kept those prayers and traditions which had been handed down from the first apostles. In fact, they wrote them down in a more accessible form than the Latin mass (that is, in English, and in one volume instead of seven)--and the Book of Common Prayer was born. I suppose you could call the BCP the one "tradition" that is distinctive to Anglican worship!

So, I'll share my favorite, truly Anglican, Advent tradition--the daily readings from the Book of Common Prayer. (You can follow along with them daily, in their entirety, here, or print off all the references here.)

The focus of Advent is on preparation. We prepare ourselves for the "three comings" of Christ, past, present and future: his first appearance on earth as a human infant, his Spirit's continual coming into our hearts, and his return someday in glory.

The readings for Advent are so richly full of these themes. John the Baptist calls us to prepare the way of the Lord with repentance. The parable of the ten wise and the ten foolish virgins remind us to be prepared, for the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night, as another reading reminds us. The Revelation readings give us glimpses into the inscrutable future; our only certainty is that Christ will return in victory and majesty. Isaiah reminds us that we are a people of unclean lips, who need the Lord to wash our scarlet sins white as snow. His prophecies span millenia, alluding to all three comings.

And those are just the ones I remember off the top of my head!

I love sharing these readings with my kids. They specifically asked recently if we could read Revelation during our Bible times, and I said yes, we will during Advent! No one preaches on the end times anymore, and I don't try to interpret too much. But it's good to be reminded that our Lord could return any day. Marantha--Come, Lord Jesus!--was one of the earliest prayers of the church. During Advent, we eagerly anticipate his comings.

In our home, we celebrate Advent in the usual ways, too:

We set up a creche or manger scene.

We have an Advent "calendar" that actually is a collection of 24 little books which tell a part of the Christmas story every day. After you have read the booklet for the day, you hang it as an ornament on the Christmas tree.

We light a candle on our Advent wreath on Sundays--sometimes with a short liturgy, sometimes without.

We set up the Christmas tree and decorate it. Last year, we kept it sparse, with just a few purplish (the color for Advent) ornaments until Christmas Eve, when we decorated it with the remaining Christmas ornaments.

(It doubled as a Jesse tree last year, as well. However, I'm not sure we'll continue with that tradition. It seemed a bit much on top of the other readings we do.)

We listen to Advent hymns. My father-in-law is one of the "Men" on this CD.

What does your family--Anglican or not--do for Advent?

This post was written for the Carnival of Anglican Advent Traditions, which will be posted tomorrow. Submit your post's URL today!


Islandsparrow said...

We've always had an Advent calendar, Advent wreath and daily Advent readings. When the children were little, we would have a special high tea every Sunday evening gathered around the Advent candles. Now we do it at Sunday brunch after church or whenever we get everyone home! And of course Birthday cake on Christmas Eve as we lit the Christ candle.

Kate said...

Please give the publishing info for that Advent calendar, I'd love to find one!!!

At A Hen's Pace said...


I added the link with the publishing info, but unfortunately, they're out of print now. Ours was a gift the Christmas that our oldest was born--17 years ago.

Now that I see what it's "worth," I'm more determined to keep taking good care of it! I can't believe we haven't lost a single book, though we've ripped the little pockets the books fit in.

Hope you can find something you like!


TwoSquareMeals said...

I've just found your blog through the carnival, and I am really enjoying it. We live in the South now, but I went to grad school at Wheaton. It's always fun to find folks up there. Two of my favorite blogs are of friends of mine who still live up there. A peaceful Advent to you.