Greetings, Fellow Congregants—
Advent, the beginning of the church year, always starts the 4th Sunday before Christmas Day. This year, that is Sunday, November 27th. Kate Bowler is a Christian writer, podcaster, and Duke Divinity School professor; she is also a person living with Stage 4 cancer. It is perhaps this latest attribute that shapes her recent no-nonsense description of Advent as a time “when we practice seeing the world as it has always been—as some of us know it to be too well. Time and again, we are reminded of how precious life is. One moment, we are on the upswing—buoyed by our self-reliance and our success. The next moment, the foundations of our lives are shaken—by divorce or disease, natural disaster or a global pandemic…And still, in the midst of the chaos swirling in our inboxes and our hearts, the long dawn of Advent begins, the time when we prepare for the great inversion: God coming to Earth in the form of a human baby.”
Indeed, this is an important season for us as Christians—both individually and collectively. The Faith Formation Team has put together a gift bag for your household that we hope will deepen and enrich your experience of Advent this year. We thought a word of explanation on its contents may be helpful.
--Tissue paper. Purple is the traditional liturgical color of this season symbolizing preparation, penitence and royalty to welcome the new King. In more recent times, many churches have started using dark blue –also representing royalty but also holiness.
--The 2022 Advent devotional, “What’s Left of the Night?” is a collection of daily readings by UCC writers that help us to recognize the importance of darkness as a balance to light. The writings are a reminder that light and dark, joy and sorrow, beauty and suffering are all necessary as part and parcel of our human life as individuals and as a species.
--Some information on the importance of angels in the stories leading up to, during and after Jesus’s birth, and an opportunity to create an origami angel. Inside the front cover of the devotional booklet you will find a small paper with 2 YouTube links that offer visual instruction on making an origami angel, as well as 3 sheets of paper—in case you want to create more than one. If you prefer written instructions, they’re on a separate sheet, along with some information on angels relevant to this season.
--A different kind of Advent calendar offering a chance to give out of our abundance –so often taken for granted—as one way to love the people Christ came to love.
--Some Evergreen sprigs. Evergreen symbolizes everlasting life; when placed in a wreath, it reminds us of the never-ending love of God.
--A candle. Jesus is proclaimed in the Gospels as the Light of the World.
--2 sticks of incense remind us of frankincense, one of the gifts of the Magi to the child Jesus.
--2 cinnamon sticks. Long before Jesus’ birth, cinnamon was valued for its healing/medicinal properties. Its delicious aroma and taste are now also associated with Christmas.
--Chocolate! Chocolate is included with many commercial Advent calendars. We think it’s yet another opportunity to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).
--Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. While these may not be visible to your eye, it is our prayer that these gifts offered so powerfully to the world through the coming of Emmanuel (God-with-Us) will be very real in your life during this season and beyond.
In Christ’s love,
Your Faith Formation Team