Of the four Sundays of Advent, yesterday was the most Advent-ish that it's going to get.
If you've been following the blog for a while, you know about my decision to insert more carols into this season of preparation. In the past I've basically refused, reasoning that you can't prepare for Jesus to be in the manger if you're already singing about Jesus being in the manger. My new rationale is that singing carols can be very helpful for us to prepare during Advent, as their familiarity and the emotions that they evoke can get us into the spirit of the season.
Yesterday's hymns were "Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus," "Arise the Kingdom is at Hand," and "As With Gladness Men of Old." In my experience, even though "As With Gladness" is a carol, it is not among the most familiar or treasured. But maybe others see that differently.
I also had two incredible brain farts during the service. First, as I got up to lead the congregation in a song on guitar, I couldn't find the starting note to save my life. I just forgot how to sing it altogether. It's a song that we've sung pretty much every Advent since I've been here, too. The organist tried to help plunk out the melody, but it just wasn't working. The congregation tried to muddle their way through it on their own, and I finally got into it about halfway through. So we sang the whole thing over again. Then during my sermon I mentioned being a seminary intern, but I ended up saying "cemetery" instead. The congregation caught it, too. I asked everyone if they could just come back in an hour and let me start the whole service over.
My sermon was a reflection on why we light the Advent wreath, and how it helps us light the way toward Christmas. I talked about how we have Christmas lights, and these are our Advent lights. I told a story about Rabbi Jose, who is taking a walk after dark one evening and meets a blind man carrying a torch. He asks why the man is carrying the torch, since he obviously doesn't need it. The blind man answers that it is so others can see him. During Advent, we light the way for each other, reminding each other of the season's promises and anticipate Christ's birth together.
This particular Advent, I'm anticipating a stack of books. I haven't really taken advantage of my continuing education funds this year, so I tooled around Amazon and came away with some "light" reading: Moltmann, Newbigin, Nouwen, and Krishnamurti (the Naked Pastor mentioned him during his interview with iMonk, and I was curious). I have others in mind already on my shelf that I'd like to re-read. I have multiple reasons for going on this binge, the simplest of which to explain is that I've basically been avoiding reading a lot of theology over the past year or so, and now the pendulum is swinging back the other way. The next simplest has to do with wanting to construct an intentional missional theology and spirituality. There's at least one more reason, but I don't have the words for it at the moment.
One final note about this year's Advent season. The church was decorated Saturday morning. I wandered in later in the afternoon to practice my sermon and putter around with some other things. The sanctuary always feels a little cozier in December thanks to these decorations. I took in that feeling, as well as the feeling of being here four years as of last Friday. My first day on the job here was the first Sunday of Advent four years ago. That's incredible to me. So I took some time to reflect on and celebrate that as well.