Let’s kick things off with an icebreaker.
When does it really start feeling like Christmas to you?
I suppose that one of the first sure signs of Christmas for me is when the Starbucks Christmas drinks appear, which often coincides with the wonderful day when I allow myself to pull my Christmas music back out.
Today I have a selection for you from a book that my mom just discovered this year called Preparing for Jesus by Walter Wangerin Jr. I love the way that he explains the concept of Advent by describing it as the first act in the “play” of the liturgical year.
Throughout my life it has been my good fortune to experience the story of Jesus with every turning of every year. The number of the years of my unfolding age is also the number of times I’ve traveled with my Lord from his birth to his death to his triumphant rising again.
And because the story has been more than told to me; because it has surrounded me like a weather; because it comprehends me as a house does its inhabitants or a mother does her child, the life of Christ has shaped mine. My very being has been molded in him.
And because my response to this story has been more than an act of mind, more than study and scrutiny; because the story invites my entering in and my personal participation; because I have experienced the life of Christ with deeper intensity than I have my own daily affairs, the Gospel story now interprets for me the world’s story. It is through the Gospel narrative, as through a window or a template, that I see all things, that I relate to them and come to know them.
In every sense of the phrase: I find myself in Jesus.
As I enter his story I enter him. As his life embraces mine, he embraces me, and I am his….
Act 1: Advent
Before the hero enters, people anticipate his coming. Old promises are remembered. New promises are made. Excitement sparks and burns in the hearts of all the players: Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph, you, me, the children. Daily the excitement blazes hotter and hotter until we can scarcely stand it.
Who’s coming? What’s his name? What’ll he be like? What’s he going to do?
People prepare. Christians examine themselves. They clean up their lives, interior and exterior, making themselves ready to meet the hero at his coming. So kindled are many emotions that good hearts break into song both in heaven and on earth, waiting, waiting for … Christmas.
A life shaped by Jesus such as Wangerin describes is the kind of life that I desire to be cultivated in myself. I pray that in this season of Advent, my heart will soften and grow as I prepare my heart for the coming of Jesus so that I will find myself in Jesus all the more each day.
In the Bennett household, we have many Advent calendars that we love, but probably our favorite is a felt one that my mom made around 34 years ago as a creative way to inexpensively share the idea of an Advent calendar with her friends. My older siblings loved it so much that they would get up earlier and earlier each morning to find out which figure they would discover as they pulled one out of a pocket each day. As you can see, this morning I pulled out a little lamb.