Observing Advent at Home: Experiencing the Mystery Anew

This post is Part five in a series on Observing the Advent Season at Home. You may find the previous four posts at the following links: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV.

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Advent is a rich time for experiencing the miracle and mystery of God with us anew. In Advent we remember and retell the story of the radical lengths to which our God goes to know us and be known by us. Inhabiting these mysteries involves disciplines and practices that help us make these connections. Below, as in all of the previous posts in this series (linked above) you will find some suggestions for activities that help foster these connections.

Noticing Sacred Space: One of the amazing features of our tradition is how much the physical worship spaces, practices, and movements of our body in the liturgy reflect the theological themes of the season. Tomorrow the church will change its colors from the growing green of Ordinary Time to penitential and prince-ly purple that characterizes Advent. This is a wonderful thing to point out to your children; they might even point it out to you. Ask members of your family to share what they notice about our sacred space. What is the same? Always present, for example, are the cross, font, and altar; these are permanent fixtures in our building. What is different? The altar arrangements and vestments change,  our Advent wreath hangs on the right side of the Nave, the Magi from our Parish creche hide throughout the sanctuary, and as we approach Christmas our Nave is covered in greens and on Christmas Eve our Altar rails are removed from the chancel. What do these changes say about what happens in Advent? What do we proclaim with our space?

Advent Wreath: As is traditional for our parish, we will gather tomorrow to make Advent wreaths together. Decorating the Advent wreath is a wonderful time to talk about how the wreath helps us move closer to the mystery of Christmas. The wreath is not just a countdown method, but a way of watching the light gather toward the birth of the Messiah. The gradual, growing light might remind us of the words of the prophet Isaiah:

The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light–Those who live in the land of darkness, on them the light has shined. […] For a child has been born for us, a Son given to us; authority rests on his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

The growing light of our Advent wreaths brings us closer and closer to this mystery. Three purple candles remind us of the penitential nature of the season and one rose-colored candle lit on the third week reminds us of the coming joy. As your family gathers together each evening (or each week) and lights the candles round the Advent wreath, reflect on how the light draws us closer to the mystery of the incarnation.

Handmade Progressive Nativity: We already discussed how we might “search for the Baby Jesus” during the Advent Season in Part II of this series. Alternatively, your family (especially if you have older children) might enjoy watching the story unfold over the weeks by making and placing each character of the nativity, one at a time. Using clothespins (or wooden pegs) make one character at a time. Begin with Mary and Joseph, the animals and shepherds. On Christmas Eve you can make the Baby Jesus and place him in his manger. Once Christmas day has passed, make one Wiseman at a time, until all three are placed around the baby Jesus on Epiphany (January 6).

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