Despite our modern impression that Christmas starts as soon as Halloween (Canada) or Thanksgiving (United States) is over, traditionally, Christmas doesn't start until Christmas day. Everything leading up to December 25 is the celebration of Advent. I think Advent is a wonderful approach to Christmas, for both secular and spiritual adherents of the holiday. While the rituals for a Christian advent are readily available, with some tweaking, people who don't subscribe to any religion or who are of another faith living in a country where Christmas is celebrated, could find a way to light those four candles in the four weeks leading up to the holiday.
We always celebrated Advent at the Gathering, and encouraged our community to spend Christmas eve and Christmas day at home with family. We held no services from the last Sunday of Advent until the closest Sunday to January 6, the Feast of Epiphany, when we would re-gather. In later years, when we switched to the liturgical rhythms of the Sacred Seasons, we encompassed Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany under the heading of Incarnation Season.
Just as my band was often tapped for All Saints because of our suitability to Halloween, Incarnation Season was almost always handled by a talented musical couple, Craig and Deborah Brososky, whose inspirations included Natalie Merchant, Tori Amos, Sarah MacLachlan, and Loreena McKennitt. Though the other musicians they included switched from year to year, the sounds they created were always well-suited to Christmas hymns and carols. They always practiced a surprise song, which ranged from obvious choices like "Linus and Lucy" from A Charlie Brown Christmas, to less obvious ones (but no less dear in our community!), such as "May it Be" from the Lord of the Rings films as part of their Christmas offerings.
|One of my favorite band slides - a little Queen influence.|
I've included some slides I created for Incarnation Season at the Gathering. Feel free to use them in your seasonal worship. As a gift to make up for my lax posting over Advent, I'll be posting a script I was preparing for a Christmas production at the Gathering. Due to casting difficulties, I never finished it, but I was proud of it, and want to share it with my Gotthammer readers as a seasonal reflection of sorts.
The Risk of Birth, Christmas 1973
There is no time for a child to be born
With the earth betrayed by war and hate
And a comet slashing the sky to warn
That time runs out and the sun burns late
That was no time for a child to be born
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honour and truth were trampled by scorn --
Yet here did the Saviour make his home.
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by a comet the sky is torn--
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.
- Madeleine L'Engle