Thursday, December 20, 2012

Advent and Lent

I'm not sure why this most obvious connection did not occur to me before...but I've been thinking about the similarities of Advent and Lent; the rhythms of preparation, fasting, reflection and celebration.

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Growing up, I wasn't quite sure what either term meant. I heard Advent and Lent mentioned by Catholic friends, so I thought they were "Catholic."  During Advent, I remember colorful cardboard 3D calendars with doors, each containing a foil-wrapped chocolate.  During Lent, I remember friends missing their favorite guilty pleasures and showing up at school with mysterious ash crosses on their foreheads. 

It wasn't until my thirties that I actually began to integrate Advent practices, and even later until I embraced an observation of Lent. Initially, I decided to investigate both seasons to find out more.  It started with daily readings and prayer, a kind of academic exercise, more head-oriented than heartfelt realization of meaning.  

During Advent, my reflection meant imagining Jesus' entry into this world--the sights, sounds, emotions, and thoughts of those involved.  I reread the story several times.  But what is Advent for me beyond that classic manger moment?  How did I come to believe this miraculous, most supernatural of events?  How would my life be different if it had never happened?  Do I allow the power of His birth to affect my life in months outside of late November thru December?  How?

Advent is a time of reflection and preparation, as is Lent.  I've been using this season to incorporate similar practices of Lent--such as fasting--to help me focus.  Particularly with the emphasis on Christmas shopping and special events, it's easy to make this a season of more, more, more.  However, it is easier for me to truly prepare my thoughts when I have less.  I've never fasted during Advent before, but it has brought new meaning to this Christmas holiday.  It's become deeper, its significance reaching beyond a single day.

I'm still going to enjoy the lights, music, decorations, and exchange of presents.  These gifts remind me of the gifts that come from Christ’s birth and the joy that Mary, Joseph, the angels and the shepherds experienced on that night so long ago.

Advent is here, Christmas is coming. We’re waiting in both seasons of Advent and Lent.  Lent culminates in darkness of grief followed by the Easter light of resurrection joy.  Advent will soon culminate in Christmas Day, a celebration for Jesus' birth.  In both Advent and Lent, we experience the rhythms of waiting and hoping, then rejoicing in beautiful fulfillment. 

How have you found your faith traditions evolving over the years?  


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