Wednesday, December 05, 2012


This is a season of waiting.

The church of my childhood was not one to observe the liturgical year.  So, it was with some puzzlement that I slowly adapted to the concept of seasons of the church year--including Advent.  For years, our church has eschewed singing most Christmas carols in services until Christmas Eve.  And for years, I have chafed at this restriction.

I had conversations--not arguments--with our pastor (who is also a friend, and who recently retired) about the available carols that could be sung without breaking that Advent message.  And sometimes we might even sing on of those carols--for example "Once in Royal David's City."

But still, our services during Advent continue to draw on the repertoire of Advent hymns--most of which are in a minor key, and are usually sung in unison.  I guess to appreciate the import of that last description, you need to know that I am an alto, through and through, and I love--make that LOVE--to sing in four part harmony.

"O Come, O Come, Emanuel" or "Watchman, Tell Us of the Night" just doesn't put me in a Christmas spirit.

And then, last Sunday, our new pastor gave new meaning to me that helps me understand and even appreciate Advent.  He said:
"The work of these weeks before Christmas, then, this time that the church calls Advent, this season of pregnant hope and possibility, is not so much to prepare for the birth of the baby that happened long ago but to welcome the Christ in us in ever deepening ways. It is a time to get the nursery of our hearts and the manger of our minds ready to engage the ministry of Christ in us more completely and creatively than ever before."

Suddenly, it clicked--and I finally get it. 

When we focus on Christmas--on the birth of a baby--we forget that what preceded that birth was nine months of being pregnant.  Nine months is a long time.  Oh, certainly, it can pass by quickly, but when you are waiting for that nine months to go by, it can be a long time.

A long time for the expectant mother and father.  A long time for family members--grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, and all manner of cousins.  All waiting.  Waiting for one singular day.  Waiting for a birth.

And so, I now understand Advent in a way I had not understood it previously.  So, thank you to our new pastor for giving me insight.

And thank you to our daughter and son-in-law for giving us a very personal example.  Only a few more days--as we all wait.


warriormom said...

As a fellow alto, I feel your pain! Having a baby arriving this time of year does give us a different perspective on Advent. Last year our grandson was born on Christmas Eve and with his rare, genetic condition, with it's prognosis of death in early childhood, we wondered if Mary understood that the baby she was waiting to deliver was being born to die? Congratulations to you and your family as you wait. There really is nothing better than being grandparents!

Anvilcloud said...

I guess we can rejoice that we don't have to Advent for 9 months every year. :)

I am a bass, but I could never master harmony, even in choirs. I just sing about two octaves down and sometimes switch octaves when necessary. This brain deficiency that I have re harmony chafes, but it is what it is.

John Robinson said...

I am so glad you are coming to appreciate the church year. It's a simple device to tell the story of the life of Christ each year through colors, readings, preaching, and hymnody. When I was a Lutheran musician, the church year was so ingrained in me that I marked time in "sacred" time as opposed to the "profane" calendar. I am thankful that our pastor feels this way and will lead us into a fuller and deeper appreciation of the church year, the biography of Christ!

NCmountainwoman said...

When our children were small, we gathered around the Advent wreath each week. They looked forward each week to lighting the appropriate candles. It was a good time of reflection and family togetherness. Our wreath had an extra center candle which we called the Christmas candle. The wreath was our centerpiece for the Christmas table.

Jayne said...

I have to admit that even though I appreciate the quiet waiting at church, I do load up my Christmas songs on the iPod and sing to my heart's content the entire month of December. :c) But, it is lovely to think of it as a time of expectation and anticipation. Congratulations on your own little one to anticipate!

Ruth said...

Congratulations on the expected new family member. You must be delighted! I was listening to unfamiliar Advent hymns today and they are gloomy tunes, but the words are full of longing and hope.

Ginnie said...

My only church experience was years ago and that was with the Unitarian church ... so I was unaware of Advent and the restrictions.
Thanks for the information...I love the music of this season.

troutbirder said...

Most thoughtful. I do love this time of year and the timing of the horibble events in Connecticut have left me so sad.

Beverly said...

When I was growing up, we didn't do the lighting of the candles of the advent wreath at our church. I love it now. However, our singing isn't restricted to the minor keys prior to Christmas.

I, too, am an alto, and I also love to sing the harmony. My husband was a booming bass. There are still songs that we sing in church that trigger strong memories of him.

Congratulations on your new life that's coming into your family. Is your daughter still living in England?