Tuesday, December 4, 2012

I'm Turning into an Old Lutheran

This past weekend I went shopping - which isn't usual for this time of year. (Yay for getting to be Santa! Or in my case, one of his elves. And yes that was a short joke.) My first stop was to buy an Advent Wreath and I went to our local Christian bookstore.

As I walked in, the first things I saw were snowflakes, snowmen, mugs, plates, stockings, little books... all of those "kitchy" items one normally finds around Christmastime that people feel like they need to fill their home with Christmas cheer. (Which all you really need is to sing for all to hear... haven't they seen Elf? My goodness.) Yet... no Advent wreaths to be found. One of the workers had to help be find one because they were literally in the back row of the store.

It bothered me.

Normally, it wouldn't. If I were at the mall or Walmart or Target, I wouldn't bat an eye. Of course they wouldn't have Advent wreaths up front. But a Christian store? I thought they would be the first thing to catch my eye. Out of all of the places where religious symbols and traditions would be available, shouldn't something like that be placed out front?

Or maybe I'm just more pretentious than I realize.

The next day I brought the Advent wreath to my Jr. High Sunday School class so we could talk about Christmas traditions, waiting, and Advent. While I knew they probably wouldn't know a whole lot about the traditions and the church calendar, I figured they would at least be able to answer some basic questions. Especially those students who went to Lutheran schools

Nope. One girl said,

"What's an Advent calendar? I saw one with One Direction on it and I don't get it."


Maybe I am becoming one of those Lutherans who say:

"Back in my day we only sang in German in church! That's real worship!

"Change! Change is evil!"

"But that's how we've always done it."

I know most churches don't recognize Advent anymore. The few who do would be Catholics, Anglicans, Episcopalians  and of course... us good ol' Lutherans. This really is okay. You're not going to hell, you're not a bad Christian, and Jesus won't hate you if you don't know what Advent is. It's simply a tradition.

However, it is one that I've grown to appreciate. I remember as a kid lighting our Advent wreath at the breakfast table and singing the little song... "Light one candle for hope..." We had this big Advent calendar too that looked like a village right out of a Charles Dickens novel and my sister and I would take turns everyday opening up the doors to find the daily ornament and counting down the days until Christmas. Even now, we have to teach our jr. high acolytes how to light the wreath at the front of the church.

The word "advent" comes from the Latin word "adventus" meaning "arrival." According to liturgical (or church) calendars, it is the beginning of the year, (So, happy new year everyone!) beginning the fourth Sunday before Christmas.

Advent is a time of waiting. Waiting for Christ to arrive. A time to prepare for the coming of Jesus. You know that old song "Oh Come Emmanuel?" That's what it's talking about.

Oh Come oh come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, oh Israel

For those of you who aren't church-nerds like me, it's referring to Israel, the Jews, waiting for the messiah. In the Old Testament you'll find that the Jewish people went into exile for being unfaithful to God. A lot of the prophets in the Old Testament warned them about this ahead of time, but they of course didn't listen. (Which in all honesty is the OT wrapped up in a nutshell.) So they waited for the long promised Messiah (Emmanuel, God with us) to come and rescue them.

In fact... the whole Old Testament is basically waiting for Jesus. From the time of the fall of Adam and Eve, God promised a Messiah to rescue his people. For thousands of years, God's people waited.

We don't really know a whole lot about waiting in 2012. If the internet is a tad slow, or if we have to wait in line a the drive-through for our Big Mac from McDonalds for more than five minutes we get angry. We can download songs off of iTunes in minutes, and we can order Christmas gifts from Amazon or ebay with overnight delivery. Nope. We have no idea what it really is to wait.

Or do we?

Waiting for them to call/text us back?

Waiting for someone to return home.

Waiting for that person to be in our lives.

Waiting for God to open a door.

Waiting for answers.

Waiting for questions.

Waiting for God to do something.

Waiting our turn in line.

Waiting for change.

Waiting to be forgiven.

The Israelites thought they were waiting for some brave and mighty king who would bring down the people who brought them into exile.

That wasn't what God quite had in mind.

Instead, it was a small child in a manger they were waiting for. The son of a virgin and a carpenter. Poor, weak, and human. God come down to us. Emmanuel.

The first week of Advent represents "Hope." We aren't waiting in vain. We aren't sitting around waiting for something that will never happen. God hears you. He knows your waiting. And the messiah is coming. Yes, we are waiting for Christmas and to remember Jesus' birth. But we are also waiting for his return (no... not on December 21, silly). Because he will return. He will set things right. 

We just need to wait. 

Oh come oh come Emmanuel.



  1. Awesome post Emily! Although I do acknowledge Advent every year it's not often that I stop and really think about what it means, so thanks for an excellent reminder :)

    1. Thanks! It's good to have a reminder every once in a while. Especially when Christmas seems to come earlier and earlier every year, it's hard to remember what it is to "wait" for it.

  2. Love! We had a big dissuasion about our OCD kicking in with uneven candles

    1. Ha! I remember when we were kids, my sister and I would always know which candle was which because of how tall or short they were.

  3. My Evangelical Covenant (does that count as "Anglican" or something? heh) church does Advent--lighting candles every Sunday leading up to Christmas and stuff. We don't necessarily do Advent calendars, though certain families do. We would sometimes get the ones that had chocolate in them to count down the days, hah.
    My old youth pastor did an advent calendar with his kids where each day in December had a fun thing to do with Mom or Dad, or making a special ornament or treat or something. I kind of wish my family had done that, but we just did the church thing. We lit one of the candles and read the Bible passage that went with it as a family one year, which was kind of neat. :)

    1. I'm not sure what Evangelical Covenant would "count" as. I just wikipedia'd churches that go through Advent, lol. I know other churches recognize it as well, and some are kind of "going back" to find old traditions, which I think is really cool.

      I love the calendars that have activities and such to do along with them. I think it's a great idea! Maybe someday when I have a family we'll have the fun chocolate and such, but activities too. :)


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