imageAs the first snow fell outside, we gathered last night in the warmth of the chapel to began our Advent journey. Our first reading interposed the hope of “O Come Emmanuel” and the fear of Mary and Joseph as they heard from the angel.

After our new friend, Jacques Bornman, led us in a reflection on Micah 5, we lifted up those who groan in anticipation of Jesus’ return. We confessed our part in the brokenness of our world and received the prophetic assurance from Isaiah 9.

Jerusalem Greer then helped us identify with the longing of Advent. The first day of the church calendar does not begin with Jesus’ birth. Advent begins with nothing, with fear, and with pain. “We start,” Jerusalem said, “in the dark.” It is the tenderness of this ache that leaves us exposed, and this position of openness is an utterly appropriate place for us to begin the year.

The point of Advent is to get in touch with our desperation, sadness, and heartbreak. It is a time to realize we need Christ and each other. After all, “What good is Christmas,” Jerusalem said, “if we don’t need it?” The invitation of Advent is to open our hearts to the whispered promise of hope.

We engaged our ache and need for one another last night as we literally crossed the room to share with someone why Christmas will be hard this year. This led us to the kingdom practices for this week and the next three weeks. Jerusalem brought us kits to create an Advent garland. The kits include a tag with an activity for each day this month. They include things like:

• Spend some time wrapping gifts and say a prayer for each person you are gifting as your wrap.
• Read Luke 1:26-28, 31 and reflect on when you have known God was with you.
• Give away good parking spots, stand in the longest lines, let others go first at every turn.

Each day we can pull one tag from the garland and do that practice as a way of living in both the longing and the hope of Advent. You can download a copy of the activities and directions for creating your own Advent garland here.

Let’s commit to living in the ache and hope this Advent as we celebrate Emmanuel.

Grace and peace,
Jason and The Practice Team