Tuesday, December 9, 2008


I am a product of the conservative evangelical 'chunk' of the church. I'm not saying that is good or bad, only as a foundation for what is to follow.
When I was growing up, liturgy was a bad word. For some reason, it seemed to signify a lack of life, power, or relevance. Somehow, the fact that people from all kinds of wonderful experience and understanding wrote (and write) these meditations and prayers seemed to pass by unnoticed. Another aspect of growing up CE was that we didn't particularly follow the church calendar. Oh yes, we celebrated Christmas and Easter, but not in the pronounced way that other churches do. When December rolled around, all of a sudden it was full-on Christmas. Get ready for the Sunday School Christmas pageant. Sing the carols. Read the Christmas story. Full tilt. head-on, do it or die.
None of the slow, contemplative buildup. No gently taking a step, stopping to ponder, and then slowly taking another step.
For me, Advent was just another word for Christmas. Now that I think about it, I never even had one of those Advent Calendars that gave you a little chocolate every day for the 24 days of December leading up to the 'big day'. (I don't think the lack of an Advent Calendar can in any way be linked to my being CE, but...?)
Then I started singing in our local community choir. None of the churches were big enough to float anything of any size, but together we could belt out some of the seasonal favorites. For several years, at both Easter and Christmas, we would learn several songs, and then go to each of the churches (a wonderful spectrum of Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, United, and Pentecostal). And I was exposed to liturgy. Potent, thoughtful, non-spontaneous liturgy. It moved me. Coming from my wonderful charismatic background, it was hard to not shout "Hallelujah" some times, but the effort to keep my joy confined only made it more powerful.
Now here we are in 2008. Advent is upon us. A couple weeks ago I attended an Advent service of carols and lessons.
To say it was powerful would be an understatement.
The church was dark, except for enough light to find a seat.
The songs and readings started with some of the more somber prayers for deliverance. Then, lesson by lesson, candles were lit, lights were illuminated, and the darkness gave way to light. It took an hour, an hour of recognizing that hope might spring eternal, but doesn't necessarily mean that the answer comes in an instant.
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Come and bring Your light.
Come and bring Your kingdom.

Today, Advent isn't just remembering how Israel waited for hundreds of years for the promise of the Messiah to be fulfilled.
It's not just reliving the joy that Christ's coming brought a couple millennia ago.
No, it is still a cry for Christ to come.
To come into our world.
To come into my world.
To come into me.

This video is an excellent way to spend the next 3 minutes and 16 seconds.

Have a thoughtful Advent, and a Joyous Christmas.


Peter said...

Al, your description of your upbringing and response to "liturgy" is so so similar to my own. In high school, I prayed for the salvation of my Lutheran friend. He wasn't "born again" in my book.

Now, at a Methodist church (with PLENTY of faults of its own) I truly love the significance and historical connection through liturgical tradition.

Great video, too.

Peter said...

Hope you're doing good, my friend. Surviving the holidays - no - THRIVING in and through them ;)


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