Year A; Advent 1; 12.1.2019; Interactive Family Worship.

 

One of the things I pray for regularly is that God will grant me patience. I’m not a very patient person and that gets me into trouble sometimes. I really am not comfortable waiting for things.

Neither of my parents were patient.  I learned that “waiting” was NOT a good thing. For example, growing up, our family of 6 might go to a restaurant for dinner. If there was ANY kind of wait, if our family of 6 couldn’t be seated right away, Dad would turn around and we’d follow him out the door. My religious grandmother would always say under her breath the verse from the Letter of James, “Let patience have her perfect work” to no avail.

There were two things that eventually taught me waiting was ok. One, when John and I were dating, he often came over to dinner at my parents’ house. The entire family would wolf down our dinner, get up and leave…and there he would be at the table alone still eating. That caught my attention.

And after John and I began to go to the Episcopal Church, I learned this new thing called Advent. There was a whole season of it; 24 days before Christmas. I learned to my shock in the Episcopal Church, not one Christmas carol was sung in worship before Christmas!

Oh yes, I had grown up knowing about Advent Calendars. But I thought they were a game of opening doors to get at the

German-made milk chocolate. When no one was looking, my brother, sisters and I opened more than one door a day because we hadn’t learned to curb our need for instant gratification. All we knew was that December was the season of Christmas, and chocolate was the food of the season.

The Season of Advent begins today. Advent gives us a richness of hope through some of the very darkest days in the year.  I have learned to love this season of waiting…waiting in hope, lighting candles on a wreath, and as they accumulate more and more light toward Christmas, there is a sense of hope that God is with us, that “light will always shine in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.”

Acolytes, will you please come forward and pass out this Advent prayer with wagon wheel on it? Thank you!

I’m distributing this Advent Wreath blessing to each of us today. We will say it later in the Great Hall after we make our family Advent wreaths. You might wonder why there is the image of a wagon wheel next to the Advent wreath.

In her book, “To Dance with God: Family Ritual and Community Celebration,” Gertrud Mueller Nelson describes the ancient pre-Christian practice of the farthest northern communities as the days grew darker and darker and colder and colder. These ancient people were never really sure that light and warmth would return.

Gertrud Mueller Nelson writes, “Pre-Christian peoples who lived far north…had a way of wooing back life and hope…As the days grew shorter and colder and the sun threatened to abandon the earth, these ancient people suffered the sort of guilt and separation anxiety which we also know. Their solution was to bring all ordinary action and daily routine to a halt. They gave in to the nature of winter, came away from their fields and put away their tools. They removed the wheels from their carts and wagons, festooned them with greens and lights and brought them indoors to hang in their halls. They brought the [wagon] wheels indoors as a sign of a different time, a time to stop and turn inward….slowly…they wooed the sun-god back. And light followed darkness…”

This she calls the recovery of hope and the art of waiting.  Christians have adopted this period of winter waiting and filled it with art and music and prayer and daily disciplines of reading scripture and practicing kind acts. Our 24-day Advent period of waiting is far from instant gratification that the culture imposes on us.

And thankfully, communities of faith offer many ways to engage our imaginations as we wait in hope for the light, for God’s action and love, for God’s peace of swords turning into plowshares, for the distant shouts of joy from a body of angels getting ready to “herald” glad tidings…Waiting is indeed a work of art because in all of it, our imaginations are stirred.

 

And so, let me share with you some really great ways with these Advent calendars to WAIT these next 24 days before Christmas as we prepare our lives, families and souls for the “Blessed Savior’s birth.”

Willow, will you please come forward to read the Advent calendar first day? And I

two more volunteers to read the other two Advent calendar projects I’ve set up here. Thank you!

  1. Read the first day of the teen Advent calendar.

“What word or words from worship today have found a home in your heart? Share these words with a friend or a family member.”

  1. Read the first day of Tom Mousin’s Advent calendar. He is our bishop’s husband who is an artist.

“Light one candle” Isaiah 2:2-5.  “He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshare, and their spears into pruning hooks;”

  1. This is an Advent Chain of Jesus’ names called “His Name is Jesus!”

I’ll cut out the first two days, Day 1, “Alpha and Omega. ‘Don’t be afraid! I am the first and the last. I am the living one! I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever.” And Day 2, “Immanuel, ‘A virgin will conceive and bear a son, and he will be called Immanuel-which means God with us.’”  By Christmas Day, you will have a colored garland ready to put on your tree!

And now Randy Day our music director will come forward to teach us the Advent song, “Light one candle for hope.”