Shirin McArthur

prayerful pondering

An Advent Tree

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Happy Liturgical New Year!

Sometime last year Henry and I purchased a rather unusual Christmas tree. We found it in a store in the small town of Palomas, Mexico, just across the border from Columbus, New Mexico. Standing as tall as we are and formed of curving metal branches, we thought it would make a unique Christmas tree.

As I was thinking about how I would observe Advent this year, it crossed my mind to decorate this tree with one or two ornaments a day, saying a prayer as I did so, as if the tree was an Advent calendar of sorts. It would be a daily reminder of the Advent season, a small ritual to distance myself from all the Christmas ads, holiday parties and other trappings of the cultural observance which have so little connection with the holy season of Advent.

You see, Advent is a time of waiting. Waiting for our yearly observance of Jesus’ birth, of God becoming incarnate in human flesh, and also waiting for that expected “end of time” when Christ will come again. And as we wait, it is a time to “set our hearts in order,” as I find myself thinking about this time. With each daily return to the tree, each ornament added and prayer spoken, something sacred is being created. Plain black metal transforms into an incarnation of prayers spoken and symbols shared.

Advent 1And so today I begin with a blue candle holder—blue being one color that represents the Advent season. Blue is also traditionally the color associated with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and she has been on my mind as I prepare a series of meditations for an Advent retreat this coming weekend.

How will you observe Advent this year? What daily ritual and prayer can help keep you grounded in the waiting, even as the culture around us dives into Christmas a month early?

One intriguing daily ritual which has come to my attention—and caught my interest—can be found at http://www.ssje.org/adventword.

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