You may be surprised to see Advent has started to appear at First Church. “Wait, isn’t Advent only four weeks long?” Advent is the church season leading up to Christmas, when we practice waiting and longing for the world God has promised. Four-week Advent has been the standard practice for Christian churches for decades— although some of our older members may remember when “Advent” was a Catholic thing and Protestants didn’t really celebrate it at all! Maybe you’ll be surprised to learn of an older tradition than the four-week season of Advent, which is a seven-week Advent that begins right after All Souls.
Seven-week Advent may feel a little new to us, but the goal of making this shift is to help us find some space for that holy longing and waiting before the cultural juggernaut of Christmas Cheer totally takes over. This way, we can make some gradual transition towards Christmas rather than fighting culture so hard to keep space for Advent to be its own season. Seven-week Advent also mirrors Lent, two seasons of approximately equal length to prepare our hearts for the two most important festivals of our religious year, Christmas and Easter.
So this year, we’re starting early to give ourselves enough time to make space for the Christ Child, born anew in our hearts and our communities each year. Our Advent theme this year is “My Heart Shall Sing,” which comes right out of Mary’s powerful and prophetic call for justice, the Magnificat. What do we do in the face of injustice and inequality? What do we do in the face of our own fears and tremblings? We sing. We sing our way into hope and community, we sing our way into the darkness, we sing our way through to what comes next, we sing our way back to each other. We sing the world as it is and the world to come, the waiting and longing and the sure knowledge that through it all we are not alone.
So happy Advent, church! May it be rich and meaningful as you wait for Christmas!