28 November 2011


And again Isaiah says,
   "The root of Jesse will come,
    even he who arises to rule the Gentiles;
    in him will the Gentiles hope."
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.                                 Romans 15:12-13

The Last Judgment Fra Angelica

Happy New Year!  The Christian Church, at least in the West, marks Advent as the beginning of a new church year.  We look forward, as ancient Israel did, to Christ's birth, and as the New Israel, to Christ's return.  While looking for Advent material, I noticed two contrasting sentences, both meditations on Christ yesterday, today, and forever.  
On a Roman Catholic site there is a quotation from an essay on Advent and Christ's threefold coming. The essay is based on a statement by St.Bernard: "In the first coming, He comes in the flesh and in weakness; in the second, He comes in spirit and in power; in the third, He comes in glory and in majesty; and the second coming is the means whereby we pass from the first to the third."

I did not disagree technically with that statement, if interpreted rightly, or really with the rest of the essay (with a few exceptions).  However, the Advent banner over at lcms.org was compelling: "As Christ came long ago in Bethlehem, so we pray He would come among us today in Word and Sacrament and again in all His glory in the last day."
Spirit vs. Sacrament (Flesh).  
Power, generally, vs. the Word, specifically. 

During Advent we remember His first coming "in flesh and weakness," but also confess He continues to come to us, in the Flesh, and in weakness (plain water, simple bread and wine, a sinful pastor).  God's ways are hidden, and appear weak to us. Flesh and weakness are not replaced by Spirit and power, but rather actually deliver to us the power of the Holy Spirit, that is, the gift of faith and salvation.

So, as Lutherans, rejoice in the hope to come, God's glory.  But remain in the little helpless God-Baby, born in Bethlehem, and the naked, wretched God-Man, cursed and dead on Golgotha.  Continue to eat His Flesh and drink His Blood until He returns.  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  Romans 5:1-2

One of the many concerns of Christian parents, across confessions, is how to "take back Christmas," or keep Jesus the "reason for the season."  For liturgical Christians, this means restoring Advent and moving Christmas to its historical place (beginning at Christmas Day, but lasting  all the way to Epiphany! Take that, Adam Sandler!). One way is to observe Advent is to save your festivities (cookies, parties, open houses) for the real Christmas season. Another is to wait to decorate until Christmas Week, or even Christmas Eve.

And I think Advent is a beautiful season for the woman of the house.  She can plan, cook, clean and wrap without stressing out. Then she can actually relax for days instead of one day. Everything is drawn out and takes longer and tastes sweeter because there isn't a mad rush.  A mad rush to prepare, a mad rush to party, then it's all over.  I know some families who do their Christmas shopping after Christmas Day, then spread the giving out over the rest of the season.  On a practical level, praise God for Advent!

Here are some sites with great ideas (use your discretion,only the third one is Lutheran)

Baby Steps for Celebrating Advent
Fisheaters-Advent Overview
Christmas in September (lots of Advent ideas, too!  Read through all the comments!)

What we're gonna do....

Learn a new hymn
Slowly decorate the house:
On Advent Sunday just put electric candles in each window, and an Advent Wreath on the table.
Eight days before Christmas ("Golden Days" singing the O Antiphons) we'll add Christmas lights and an empty Nativity Scene.
Hide-n-seek each morning during Christmas Week for certain Nativity figures until Mary on Christmas Eve and Jesus on Christmas Day.  Wisemen begin to make the trek from upstairs.
 We always get our tree a few days before Christmas and decorate it on Christmas Eve
Attend midweek services
Make Christmas gifts
Make Christmas cookies and treats to freeze, consuming only during Christmas
Introduce new (read "different") prayers to memorize and pray during bed time
Memorize the Ten Commandments (my kids have the Creed, Lord's Prayer, Morning and Evening Prayers down, so now is as good as ever to start something new).

Other ideas I'm interested in, but am not committing to, yet:

*Collecting 30 or so religious picture books to wrap up in tissue paper and "unwrap" each evening before bed to read.  Of course, many will be Christmas-themed, but not all of them.  An Arch Book on John the Baptist (preparing the world for the first advent of Christ) would be appropriate, or some of the parables about the Parousia. You could, over time, collect a lot from amazon/garage sales/used book stores.

*Freezing meals over advent to use during Christmas. What a great way to prepare to rest during the season!

What are you doing special for Advent?  Watch for future posts on recipes, gift ideas, etc.

Comfort, comfort ye my people,
speak ye peace, thus saith our God;
comfort those who sit in darkness,
mourning 'neath their sorrow's load;
speak ye to Jerusalem
of the peace that waits for them;
tell her that her sins I cover,
and her warfare now is over.


  1. We put up our tree at the beginning of Advent, undecorated. Well, actually I put on the garland and lights, but we don't turn them on 'til Christmas Eve at sunset. Throughout Advent we decorate it with the Jesse Tree ornaments I made a few years back while DH was still at Seminary. On Christmas Eve we put all the rest of the ornaments up after the last Jesse Tree ornament has been hung.
    We have a simple evergreen Advent wreath on the dining table that the boys will make little decorations for - a great chance for lots of little craft projects throughout the season when I need them to stop climbing the walls!
    St. Nicholas' Day is a favorite part of Advent in our house. It's DS3's nameday, plus everyone hangs their stockings the night before and in the morning there filled with little gifts and treats. We have our first clementines then, there's usually a candy cane, new crayons, small books, my mom has made new slippers for all 4 boys as their gift from her, and this year I bought a package of Christmas shrink-plastic icon ornaments from paideaclassics.org for us to color and make.

  2. Great post Katy, thanks! It's so so hard for me to not go full on Christmas yet. It's of course my favorite holiday and I'm itching to get to it plus I'm in a funk right now and just want to get into celebration mode. But this year I'm determined to keep my "celebrating" muted through Advent and savoring the anticipation. A feast is much sweeter when you've endured the fast I think.

    And you're right, what a great time to enjoy what Advent is for, preparing and waiting. I find I get over ambitious about what all I want to do anyway, so the weeks to prepare is very good for me.

    Here's what we're doing:

    Advent wreath lit during supper, singing O Come Emmanuel, one more verse added each week as we light it. My girls love turning the lights down while we do this. And we're doing a Jesse Tree during our evening devotions. My father-in-law just made a tree for me and will be sending it, I'll have pictures of it on my blog soon. I can't wait to see it! He's also giving us an Advent Calendar that I intend to put small candies, nativity pieces or slips of paper with an activity or bible verse in behind the doors.

    I've put out some of our Nativity sets, without baby Jesus. And I'm making a manger out of sticks that will go under our tree when we get it. Then baby Jesus (a baby doll) will be added on Christmas day. We celebrate St. Nicholas day when we'll give the first of 3 gifts our children will get and we're learning an Advent hymn.

    A Blessed Advent to you!