Having grown up in a non-liturgical tradition, Advent as a practice is new for me.
Though my mama handcrafted beautiful felt nativity-scene Advent calendars for us, we couldn’t control ourselves and always thought the calendar worked best with all the pieces at once. Rearranged. Over and over. She didn’t seem to mind.
Then there was the annual Advent candle my grandmother would gift each year–a tradition that sounds warm and delightful but always ended up being a waxy reminder of forgetfulness when we’d have to burn through four days at once.
Of course, there was the weekly candle lighting at church–featuring a family carrying a single flame, carefully yet briskly walking down the aisle toward the candles at the altar before the fire went out.
Even though I’d been surrounded by Advent, the reality of it as a framework for understanding Christmas didn’t sink in until I was an adult. I’ve grown to appreciate it, especially the practice of assigning themes to each of the weeks; It provides space for processing the complexities of the season. The timeframe from Thanksgiving to the New Year is one of immense joy and celebration, but it brings memories of loved ones lost, reminders of dreams deferred, and longings for things to be made right.
It was this dichotomy of celebration and grief that we had in mind when developing the Every Moment Holy Advent journal. We wanted to offer a reminder that the same God who invites you into a celebration will also sit with you on the back porch while you grieve the loss of someone who used to sit in that now-empty chair.
The same God who invites you to rejoice, also mourns the loss of your pregnancy.
The same God who delights in laughter and jubilant chaos will sit with you in the still of night when social exhaustion overwhelms.
God is not threatened by the dark.
There is room for all of it during the Advent season, and what better proof than the Messiah himself arriving to live as we live, hurt as we hurt, cry as we cry, and laugh as we laugh?
Perhaps this journal will help you embrace that truth as you enter into the coming weeks. The 4-week journal centers on four themes: Hope, Faith, Joy, and Peace. Each theme features a liturgy from the Every Moment Holy series and writing prompts that invite reflection and response. As a pairing to the journal, Doug McKelvey has crafted a Liturgy Writing Guide for the Advent season which can be used as a supplement to the journal or on its own.
The journal begins with “A Liturgy to Mark the Start of the Christmas Season”, and we offer it to you here as we welcome the holiday season:
A Liturgy to Mark the Start of the Christmas Season
LEADER: As we prepare our house for the coming Christmas season, we would also prepare our hearts for the returning Christ.
PEOPLE: You came once for your people, O Lord, and you will come for us again.
Though there was no room at the inn to receive you upon your first arrival, We would prepare you room here in our hearts and here in our home, Lord Christ.
As we decorate and celebrate, we do so to mark the memory of your redemptive movement into our broken world, O God.
Our glittering ornaments and Christmas trees, Our festive carols, our sumptuous feasts— By these small tokens we affirm that something amazing has happened in time and space— that God, on a particular night, in a particular place, so many years ago, was born to us, an infant King, our Prince of Peace.
Our wreaths and ribbons and colored lights, our giving of gifts, our parties with friends— these have never been ends in themselves. They are but small ways in which we repeat that sounding joy first proclaimed by angels in the skies near Bethlehem.
In view of such great tidings of love announced to us, and to all people, how can we not be moved to praise and celebration in this Christmas season? As we decorate our tree, and as we feast and laugh and sing together,a we are rehearsing our coming joy! We are making ready to receive the one who has already, with open arms, received us!
We would prepare you room here in our hearts and here in our home, Lord Christ.
Now we celebrate your first coming, Immanuel, even as we long for your return. O Prince of Peace, our elder brother, return soon. We miss you so!
Find the Every Moment Holy Advent Journal and liturgy writing guide at everymomentholy.com/advent.