I hear it all the time. Believers are interested in exploring new practices, but they're uncomfortable doing it alone. Ash Wednesday is one week from today, March 6th. In your local community, there will be services offered by Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Catholic, and Presbyterian churches, among others. Here's what you can expect. Find a local service and give it a try.
Maybe you're not ready to go and do something new. I'd encourage you to do something new at home then. Lent starts with Ash Wednesday on March 6th, then goes for forty days, until April 18th. It's an excellent way to examine our own lives in the bigger, more glorious life of Jesus. Determine something you can give up to increase your focus on serving God, or add a spiritual practice. Here are some devotional book ideas. I love this kid's book.
I've sat on this guest post for some time. My friend Denise did a new thing, observing Advent for the first time last December. Be encouraged by her words. Enjoy exploring!
by Denise Dykstra (Life with four boys... coffee please blog)
It was a total fluk that we celebrated our first advent but I am so thankful we did. It was a something that ended up being so wonderful and now, a few weeks out, I find myself missing Advent greatly.
I had been invited to be a guest on a podcast. We were brainstorming topic ideas when the idea of Advent was mentioned. My friend Naomi had spent the last year on the road, literally. Her husband is an over the road truck driver and she and their two boys had spent over a year traveling with him in a mini house type semi. Christmas had not felt special living in a truck and so she and her family had decided to try Advent. They gathered greens at a truck stop to make a wreath, bought some candles at Walmart, looked up ideas for Advent from a Buck Denver book and together they had celebrated their first Advent. Her whole face lit up as she talked about it and her enthusiasm was contagious.
We had one week to prepare for the recording of the podcasts and so for one week I studied all I could. All I found had me realizing that this just wasn’t another reason to buy a gift for your kids every day of the month leading up to Christmas (as I thought it was) but it was exactly what I had been looking for without even knowing. Advent, in its simplest form, is a love story. I could not wait for December to arrive and celebrate Advent.
Then December arrived.
I don’t know about you, but December and May are the two busiest months of the year. This December began with my getting sick. Then the prescription I was on made me sick. And let’s just be really honest, our family stress took went super high and I may have not had a single gift bought one week before the arrival of Christmas. Also, we are in Michigan. Suddenly we had weather that made it feel spring was just around the corner and not a bit like Christmas weather at all. Nothing at all was even remotely like the Hallmark Christmas movies playing 24/7.
Every morning our two youngest sons and I would light the tea light I had on the table to make the day seem more special and take out that days Lego from the Lego Advent Calendar I didn’t need but am so glad I purchased. I would read to them from All Creation Waits, an Advent book, and we would be reminded every day what the season was really about.
The Advent wreath I made from gathered pine branches and candles in mason jars was placed in the middle of the dining room table. What did surprise me is that my two oldest sons, the ones with college classes and jobs and a million things, paid close attention to that wreath. Every Sunday they made note if it was lit and on Christmas Eve, when we as a family celebrate Christmas, it was moved to our family room and lit as I read the Christmas story from the Bible.
Advent changed Christmas for us.
In the days since Christmas has left, been packed up and put away until next year, I find myself craving for those moments we carved out the time to put Jesus front and center. I miss thinking every day on how much love came down to us. I miss the lighting of the candle on the dark mornings and dark nights, the flickering warmth to remind us of hope. I miss the feeling of waiting with expectation.
Yes, you can spend time with God every morning and continue in your journey with God every day of the year. But there is something special, something precious, about it all at Advent.
This may have been our first Advent, but it certainly will not be our last.