Advent came alive for me last year as I taught on it in two places - at church for an adult Sunday school class, and with the students at Providence Hall. Sadly, it took those opportunities to discover what I'd been missing.
The word "Advent" comes from the Latin word adventus or "coming." It's a time of reflection, pondering how it must have felt to anticipate that first coming of Jesus some 2,000 years ago. What I didn't fully comprehend is that as we celebrate that first coming we are to learn how to await a second coming -- patiently, yet expectantly. So when we light the candles -- usually designated as hope, joy, love and peace -- we should allow ourselves to be challenged in these spiritual disciplines. In other words, how do I live in hope, joy, love and peace throughout the year?
But even more, I was awakened the most in realizing that Advent is the start of the church year. This is where I was really missing the boat. For Christians, our liturgical year starts with Advent -- then is followed by Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost. Pentecost is followed by a lovely season called "Ordinary Time," which simply means "counting the days." Not only are we to weave the celebration of these holidays into our lives, but we can also adapt our spiritual disciplines according to what Christian holiday we are preparing for or celebrating.
That's where I am now -- discovering the beauty and depth of building my life around my worship of God with his church, and not just my calendar year. Follow some of the links I've listed -- seriously, it's worth exploring. Make your daily devotional life connect with it all -- it will have profound effects, I promise. I talked a bit about this a few days ago in reference to a new devotional I'm using. If you can't afford the book, or want to try it on -- go to the daily website called Common Prayer. Warning: you will be hooked.
So I am making some new New Year's Resolutions -- praying according to the liturgical year, reciting some prayers from church history, and following the lectionary in terms of my Bible reading. I pray that all these disciplines help me grow deeper in waiting expectantly. I am grateful that in Christ I have been born again, and that he is always birthing new life in me daily.
Fear not that thy life shall come to an end, but rather fear that it shall never have a beginning.
... John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890)