November 30 – The In and the Out of Advent

Sunday is the first Sunday, the first day, of Advent 2012. In a general sense Advent is the four week period before Christmas. Originally a season of the church year, it has come to be related to such things as Advent calendars with a piece of candy or a picture of a reindeer or elf behind every Christmas countdown window.

Being a relatively low church in terms of things liturgical, LPC does not give close attention to all the festivals and seasons of the year. But we mark Advent. We light a candle each of the four Sundays of the season, following the tradition of first a purple hope candle, then a purple peace candle, followed by a pink joy candle and finally a purple love candle. There is nothing in the Bible about the candles or their colors. It’s just a tradition, but a good tradition.

We know that Advent is a season of waiting and we will talk to each other about not being so distracted and that Jesus is the reason for the season. Of course, most of us won’t do very well at not being so distracted and we will forget that Jesus is the reason almost every day of the countdown season. It’s our tradition.

At LPC there is an old tradition of providing Advent devotionals for all who will use them and a new tradition (this is the second year, so it counts) of providing a postcard with a listing of Advent activities to share with our friends and neighbors. The first speaks to the “in” of Advent and the second to the “out” of Advent.

This year’s devotional is brand new, “Follow the Story” by Marva Dawn. The “in” of advent is our call to forgo the distractions of the season to attend to the needs of our hearts and minds as we prepare to celebrate the coming of Emmanuel, God with us – the babe of Bethlehem who is also Lord of the universe. The discipline of a daily devotional time draws us in.

Marva Dawn is a wise woman whose writing has taught me much over the years. “Follow the Story” is typical Dawn in many ways. Slow and patient, never in a hurry, always observant of the small details, “Follow the Story” takes us through Luke 1 in 25 days. Just one gospel chapter. There’s an addendum for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day that takes us to Bethlehem, but otherwise we are in Jerusalem, Nazareth and the hill country of Judah with Zechariah and Elizabeth, an angel named Gabriel, and mostly a young woman named Mary.

I encourage you to pick up a copy of “Follow the Story” at the church this Sunday and then read it and Luke 1 every day through Advent as you allow the beginnings of the gospel to go deep within. By the way, you can download “Follow the Story” to your reader for 99 cents.

I also encourage you to pick up as many copies as you’d like of the wonderful “Proclaim the Holy Birth” postcard our office staff has prepared for you. On one side of the card we have listed some key Advent activities – caroling, cantata, Christmas Eve – that may be just the kind of thing you’d like to invite a friend or family member who may not know that there is any reason for the season other than being distracted. The best use of the card is to hand to that friend or family member along with an offer to pick them up for or sit with them at the event. But there’s also a return address on the reverse side, so you can apply a stamp and an address and send it to as many people as you’d like.

The “out” of Advent is reaching out to those who recognize reindeer and elves, but who don’t yet recognize the amazing good news of the Baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in manger.

The In and the Out of Advent. Maybe this year we will be a little less distracted and a little more attentive to the reason for the season.