I will always thank my parents for raising me in the gentle-reminder cycle of the liturgical calendar. As Advent has become so amazingly trendy, I've felt both happiness and regret, realizing how much the American church has thrown out the baby with the bathwater. Tradition-following led to empty religious rituals, so we ditched it all. Was it worth it?
Ah, to live in a world where tradition and religion are bad words neither by truth nor by false association, but instead are words that tell of glorious history and God-powered discipline.
Today is Epiphany, when some remember the arrival of the wise men in Bethlehem to worship the star-told king. It was the introduction of the Son of the Jewish God to the Gentiles, the great inclusion of the rest of us. I love this holiday because of what it tells: Jesus Christ, fulfillment of Abraham's promise, descendent of David, King of the Jews, opens his arms to astronomers from the East and to the universe. The One who has privilege to be utterly exclusive begins the happy inclusivity of the universal church.
Which brings me back to Advent. As the Christmas feast ends, I find myself returning to the season of longing--not longing for all the trappings of a cheery time of American moralstic therapeutic deism, but for the true completion, the end and beginning of all things. Symbols of waiting and completion were fulfilled once and will be fulfilled again. Each day we live Advent, not awaiting a baby but a King returning.
And this expectant waiting--is it not only possible because, in a sense, the waiting is over and the promise has been fulfilled? We live not in the 400 years of silence but Anno Domini, the time of triumph coming, the already/not yet, the centuries brimming with the Comforter. The world has tasted what is coming; the songs of longing spring because of the grace of the One we long for. Two thousand years ago our eyes were opened to the Light, our ears to the Word.
And so, as the new year dawns, we wait with hopeful expectation.
If you want to join in my awkward year-round singing of Advent songs, here's a small sampling of suggestions, which (oh darn) are of course mixed with some good Christmas tunes as well:
Cardiphonia - By All Adored
Folk Angel - Headed Home - Christmas Songs Vol. 2
High Street Hymns - Love Shall Be Our Token / One Winter's Night
Robbie Seay Band - December Vol. 2: Songs of Advent
Sojourn - Advent Songs
Caedmon's Call - Prepare Ye the Way (One song, just strikes me as Advent-y.)
And a fun Epiphany song for the road:
Barenaked Ladies / Sarah Maclachlan - God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen / We Three Kings