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It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

Advent Day 8

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel Verses one and two

 A quick note: When we decided to take on the musical Advent calendar, we wanted to make it really accessible to anyone, regardless of faith tradition. However to keep my sanity, I'm using some of the traditions of my Episcopal upbringing to guide the process. On Sundays we'll be referring to those traditions to set the week's themes, but this is designed for all. 

In many churches, the singing of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" coincides with the lighting of the candles on the advent wreath. The wreath has four candles often 3 purple and one pink, and some have a white candle which is lit on Christmas.  

Each week has a theme and these vary depending on denomination. Hope, peace, joy, and love will be our themes. 

During the second week of Advent, we will be reflecting on peace. 

At this time of year, peace can feel hard to come by. The pressures of the season, financial strain and scheduling gymnastics--combined with increased exposure to other humans, can make peace feel a little challenging. (For example, I just snapped at my husband for his critique of this very reflection, because it's late and I'm tired and a little hungry.) If you're struggling to find peace, you're not alone, but we're in it together. 

Advent Day 9

It Came Upon The Midnight Clear

I don't think peace has ever been a natural state for me. Life is a bit like an itchy sweater so I'm always a bit irritated. As I'm writing this, I've removed myself from a rehearsal because I'm so angry that I want to bite someone, which made tears well up, then spiraling bad thoughts drove me from the room. Peace sounds great, but I struggle daily to get anywhere near it. 

Because of my inherent distrust of calm, I've always been drawn to art that finds beauty in chaos, uncertainty, imperfection and conflict. 

It came upon a midnight clear uses the juxtaposition of the angels' message with the challenges of the recipient. Into a messy complicated world they bring they glad tidings whether we can hear them or not. It's reassuring to know that peace is hovering nearby, waiting for us to let it in.

Note: There is no activity today entirely because we need sleep. We love you all and wish you all peace.

Advent Day 10

Advent Day 11

What Child Is This

When I was a kid, this was one of my favorite carols, because I got to say “ass” in church. The first time I sang this as a solo, I realized how difficult a song it is to sing. There are so many words and no room for breath. It’s as though the poet wanted to make the singer feel, by the end of the song, what Mary herself might have felt-- breathless, full of hope and uncertainty, and blessed to have been a part of the bringing of something so incredibly beautiful into the world. I imagine her, momentarily so overcome by her efforts and their results, that the brokenness of the world, and the smell of cattle, just faded away. 

The thing about the Christmas story that has always appealed to me, is the humanness of it all. The hotel booking that fell through. The imperfect solutions. The nosy neighbors who pop by to see what all the fuss is about. Whether you consider if gospel or fable, there is something inherently appealing about the story. I think that was a large part of my desire to do this calendar, was to take the time to remember that this is not a story of new cars with big red bows, or diamonds or stationary bikes. It’s a story about making space for the stranger, welcoming new possibilities, and celebrating with what you have.

Advent Day 12

Silent Night

 It's quarter to one in the morning.  I am covered in glitter and glue and paint. All because of Silent Night. You see, the singing of "Silent Night," in the churches I'm familiar with, is usually done by candlelight on Christmas Eve. So I thought, "I know, I'll make a Mason jar lantern. That will be easy and fun!" That was a lie.

It started out great. I didn't have painter's tape, so I subbed in butcher's tape, but it was looking like clear sailing. Until it came time to remove the tape. Two hours later, my fingers were coated in a weird gummy film, I was covered in a variety of things, the table looked like war had been waged and I was ready to give up. Eventually it all came together, thanks to much cheerful support from my sweet husband and actually turned out pretty fun. 

I've often thought that "Silent Night" was a bit like that, glossing over a whole lot of mess and noise and humanness to focus on some idealized version of events. But what if it's just about shifting focus away from the mess, even just for a moment, to fully embrace the profound beauty of it all in order to find peace in the chaos. 


Until tomorrow

Advent Day 13

Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming

 Recently we've gone to a few meetings where the facilitators began with the Rose, Thorn, Bud technique, wherein participants are asked to reflect on the following questions as they pertain to their work: 

  • What was the highlight? (Rose)
  • What went wrong? (Thorn)
  • What are you looking forward to? (Bud)

You can use this technique in a group or as a mindfulness exercise. It sprung to mind for me today because this advent calendar project has its share of thorny moments, when nothing seems to work and it all feels like too much. The thorns are so easy to dwell on. At the same time, it's also beautiful to have so many people interested and participating and sharing. The buds are springing up everywhere because each day makes me excited to see what other projects we can accomplish. 

If you're reading this, we would love to hear your Rose-Thorn-Bud reflections on your advent experience this year. 

Advent Day 14

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Yesterday I started my day with an epic errand run. The list wasn't long but it required trips to several stores for one or two key things in each. Each store disappointed, with at least one key item being out of stock. Standing in line in the craft store I felt my ire rising because, as is always the case, there weren't enough cashiers. Since I had nothing but time, I checked in with myself and realized that while I was annoyed, I wasn't anxious. 

This advent practice has given me something to worry about besides all the imaginary future problems that lurk in the back of my consciousness smothering any sense of peace. The daily act of trying to create something worth sharing (regardless of the success rate) has been pretty transformative. Tomorrow we move into the week of joy, for which I feel significantly more prepared than I was at the outset, because this week I've seen glimpses of peace.

Advent Calendar Image Credit

 Images by Kevin Sanderson (@pinwhalestock - pixabay.com)