Advent reminds us that, despite all evidence to the contrary, God is indeed among us, with us, for us, and before us. We can confess this because God came as one of us.
Karl Barth says it best,
"But is Christ in us? Is Christ even in present-day society? We hesitate to answer and we know why we hesitate....But if Christ is in us, then society, in spite of its being on the wrong course, is not forsaken of God. The 'image of the invisible God,' the 'firstborn of every creature' in us (Col. 1:15), indicates a goal and a future...So: we bid you hope" (The Word of God and The Word of Man 274-275).The first Advent reminds us to hold on hope for the second Advent, when Christ will come again and make all things new. Our encounter with Advent awakens us to live into this future hope in our ever-day present.
"Advent is also a pilgrimage. A time of sacred travel. It is a way that we answer what Goethe called "the holy longing." During Advent we will leave the place of our birth to journey to the birthplace of another. It is an invitation to be born again." (Rose Marie Berg)Advent is also a unique opportunity to engage in creative and comtemplative expressions of holy ritual. Whether it be lighting and Advent wreath on Sunday mornings and each night at dinner, reading a particular devotional each evening before bed, or listening to favorite seasonal music, the formative traditions of Advent must not be bypassed. They are playful yet sacred reminders of who we are as the pilgrim people of God.
That said, I thought I would share a few of my favorite Advent practices that guide me to December 25th.
Songs for Christmas by Sufjan Stevens (any of the volumes or sing-along are good!)
Snow Angel by Over the Rhine (free on noisetrade.com)
Advent Songs by Sojourn
Christmas Songs by Jars of Clay
Preparing for Christmas with Richard Rohr: Daily Meditations for Advent
Advent and Christmas: Wisdom from Henri J.M. Nouwen
Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle (section for Advent)
Daily Readings for Advent 2012 (Revised Common Lectionary & PCUSA Book of Common Worship)
Non-Traditional Advent Songs and Dinner-Table Reflection Discussion Starters
Ideas for Reclaiming Advent and Christmas (PCUSA Just Living)
Advent Conspiracy: www.adventconspiracy.org
Other Interesting Seasonal Reads/Listens
It's Not Christmas Yet by Rob Bell (Relevant Magazine)
Advent TNT Extravaganza (Homebrewed Christianity Podcast)
Advent in a Crumbling Empire by Shelley Douglass (sojo.net)
The Habit of Advent by Rose Marie Berg (sojo.net)
Top 10 Resources for Advent 2012 (sojo.net)
St. Nicholas Wasn't White and Other Thoughts on the Bishop of Myra