ad•vent (noun)
the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event

Similar: arrival, appearance, emergence

the first season of the Christian church year, leading up to Christmas and including the four preceding Sundays: Advent

Today is the first day of Advent 2022. Two unrelated things reminded me: the arrival on my doorstep this week of a friend with a Christmas cactus (Already in bloom! Doesn’t it know it’s not Christmas yet?), and the arrival in my inbox this morning of the first of my daily Advent emails from the G.K. Chesterton Society.

Even from an early age I think I understood Lent as being some sort of preparation for Easter. By contrast, I don’t remember Advent being presented/explained/promoted as a season of preparation for Christmas. Christmas just came. Didn’t it?

Maybe I missed that lesson, because for sure we followed the church liturgical calendar. On the first Sunday of Advent we started singing Christmas hymns (In November! Weird!), and the church sanctuary added some Christmas ornamentation. (Not too much!) Unlike the soaring and elaborate Roman Catholic cathedrals of Europe, our United Church buildings on the Prairies were more in the visually austere Lutheran tradition, minus the genius architecture.

At home, Advent didn’t start until 01 December. We four kids — working in a strict-and-therefore-fair rotation — opened one “window” on the Advent Calendar each day and read aloud the Scripture extract inside. The calendar clearly arrived/appeared/emerged out of a distinctly different tradition than the one I saw on offer every Sunday. To this day the paper retains much of the gold glitter (Glitter!) randomly affixed to it, and its representation of angels trailing clouds of glory or somesuch (Ah, Bright Wings) was definitely outside my own church-art experience.

It was a long time before I understood that the calendar story was not found in the Bible in that format: It was assembled (edited if you like [and I do]) from various sources to make a coherent narrative, but only if you already knew the “whole” story, itself a conglomeration of the different stories in two of the Gospel accounts.

And here I am again. Whether I am ready or not, Christmas will come, in one sense at least: There *will* be singing and feasting and gifting. But other than turkeys on the table, presents under the tree, and Christmas cards-and-newsletters in the mailbox and inbox, what will arrive/appear/emerge in the world and in me?

That, I think, depends on what I do with Advent. And, as it always is, today is the first day.

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12 Responses to Arrive/Appear/Emerge

  1. What a thrilling challenge and assurance in those last two sentences! When the children were still at home, we always had an Advent wreathe. I wonder if I can still find candles in the appropriate colours tomorrow? No better time to arrange an exterior reminder of an interior blessing.

  2. Alison says:

    I vividly remember, and may still have? a similar paper Advent calendar with its hidden Scripture messages. But Advent starting in November surprised me this year – somehow I don’t remember THAT?

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Alison – I counted it out and think that if Christmas Day falls on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, then Advent starts in December, since that gives the room to have 4 Sundays in the same month (Dec 1, 8, 15 and 22). Otherwise (Christmas Day on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday [as this year]), Advent starts in November.

  3. Tom Watson says:

    I’m not sure that my memory of church during my childhood is totally accurate, but I too don’t remember much significance being placed on Advent. I also don’t recall our going to a Christmas Eve service—that may be because we had cattle to milk, and that was the priority.

    The big deal—both at church and at school—was the annual Christmas concert.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – LOL – No, like you, I wouldn’t claim perfect recall. It could well be that it was transmitted but not received; or received but not stored. And I don’t think we had church Christmas concerts – just school ones. It’s fascinating how different our experiences can be once you take into account different provinces and slightly different periods of time.

  4. Jim Taylor says:

    Advent calendars — although my father was a minister, my family must have been more hedonistic than yours. When I/we opened a little door, we found a chocolate inside, rather than a reading from scripture.

    As for Advent as a time of preparation, I now tend to see it more as “waiting.” One of our hymns begins, “All earth is waiting…” I seem to have spent most of my life waiting. For something. Right now, maybe just waiting for spring.

    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim T – Wow. I didn’t know they had Advent calendars with chocolates back in the day. I thought they were a new perversion. Nothing new under the sun. One chocolate wouldn’t have worked in a house with four kids . . .

  5. Mary Gibson says:

    YOU have our old Advent calendar??!?!

  6. Dorothy Warren says:

    Do I sense a little sibling angst there? I don’t remember advent calendars at all in our home. Now there is an abundance, most having very little, ok honestly nothing, to do with the religious holiday. In our immediate family we have Lego calendars.. 3 types, short story calendars, nice note calendars i.e. thank you for …., the always favorite chocolate now in artisan hand crafted form, and this year something new – a jigsaw calendar. Sometimes I long for the simplicity of the past.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Dorothy – Well, not serious angst. More playing at it. As for the diversity of calendars available now, not all change is progress. 🙂

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