Comin' on Christmas now. This is the eve of the First Sunday of Advent, and in the Church, as is our Jewish heritage, we may begin to celebrate the day on the eve of the prior day.
This is my Advent wreath this year. I have a simple brass ring that I generally place in a tray or bowl and decorate to suit. This year I have the ring set on a platter with a raised lip, and filled with a base layer of privet, then holly from my holly tree on top. The purple berries around the edges are also privet. I may have to change everything out in a week or two, depending on how everything holds up in the house-- but I sure like the look of it now.
This year I'm using liturgical purple, rather than blue. Blue is the Sarum (English) use, which has come into favor in the Episcopal Church in recent years, because it emphasizes our particularly English heritage. Some years I like blue, but this year it's purple. I've got to learn to stage my pictures better, removing binoculars and birdwatching books!
Here's my Christmas wreath, decorated simply for Advent for the next 4 weeks. In this picture, that ribbon looks as blue as anything -- but it's not! That ribbon is a deep purple. It must be the light, just before twilight. On our Advent wreath at church, which is a big, beautiful, horizontal brass one, we have some interesting elements added: cinnamon, straw, boxwood, orange peel, holly, and maybe a couple of other things. They all have symbolic significance, and we have a parishioner who puts them on every year, along with pretty purple bows. I really appreciate Dorothy doing that so beautifully each year; it adds depth and meaning to our Advent season. This year I may make my own little bundles and add them to my door wreath; if I do, I promise to take pictures and explain all the symbols.
As for the wreath, come Christmas I'll decorate it more festively -- with a bright ribbon, or holly, or perhaps with the sweet little garland I bought last year with tiny mittens hanging from it.
I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving celebration. I ordered a wonderful organic, free-range turkey (yes, expensive, but truly worth it). I was alone for the day, and so decided to make only the foods I like: turkey, cranberry-orange-walnut relish, rolls, cream cheese dip for veggie sticks, stuffing (truly stuffed inside the turkey, to absorb all the lovely juices), gravy and this year, a pumpkin pie. It was all perfectly delicious, but for the first time I realized how perfectly excessive it was. Keep in mind this is a girl who survived (and thrived!) most of the summer on cereal for breakfast and a big late-afternoon salad. Yes, I've been feasting for 3 days now, and will continue to do so when I make the soup from the carcass. But no one individual really needs (or wants, truth be told) that much food. It's almost sickening, even as I continue to stuff myself. A friend, also alone, bought herself two turkey thighs, one potato, and some veggies. I'll do that at Christmas, probably -- substituting stuffing for potato. I froze nearly half of what I made (turkey, relish, and stuffing) this month -- maybe I'll just thaw and heat next month.
In a weird way, it feels good to notice and be disgusted by the excessiveness. I think it's the first time I've been aware of it.
For a Sunday Advent class, we're reading and discussing Marcus Borg's Reading the Bible Again for the First Time. It's available used for as low as $1.51 in paperback. Amazing. I like this book so far. Maybe I didn't tell you the story of my new philosophy of adult Christian education in this parish. It's a little long, but kind of funny. One of my strengths as a priest is as a passionate teacher of things spiritual and theological. When I came to this parish, my understanding was that they longed for someone who would educate them. I was thrilled. Except for the Wednesday bible study, which is growng steadily, I get a very low turnout (3-6) for my adult ed offerings. I've been steadily frustrated and crushed by this, having spent long hours designing and preparing courses and materials. One day I realized that I was led by the search committee, and especially by those individuals who visited me in Buffalo, to believe this parish was longing for education. And two of the three who visited me (and with whom I had hours of extended conversations at the time) were in fact people who were avid for education -- but they did not reflect the overall demographic of the parish! And they are both gone now, having moved away to be closer to their adult children.
Initially I was angry at the lack of response to my hard work. Then (also in anger, I think) I just stopped offering anything but the bible study, which I love, and the participants also love. Recently I realized that I love to teach, and also to learn in a community of learners. I love book groups. So I decided to offer exactly the sorts of things I enjoy doing, and then to enjoy whatever the turnout, because I'm doing something I love. Last "term" I did a course called "Bible 101," poorly attended, but I had fun. This "term," for Advent (that's where I began this post), we're doing the book discussion, over a casserole lunch. Last week was our first week, and 3 people attended -- but we ate together and discussed together, and what fun we had! So we'll spend 3 more weeks on this (including next week), be free for Advent 4, when we'll decorate the church for Christmas, and have fun along the way. I haven't read this book, but like Marcus Borg, and so far am enjoying it immensely, even when I disagree with him (which isn't often).
That's about it this week. I'm waiting for the coming of Christ. I'm waiting for the final coming, as well. I'm trying to figure out why those of us who believe it, are so nervous about it. Maybe it's our guilty conscience.
My friend Fran, who inspires me regularly, has suggested that I publish a link to my sermons, and I think I will do that. I did it one time, I think, but why not every week -- that way I'll be sure to get at least one post each week, won't I? My sermon for tomorrow is finished, but I always do one last once-over on Sunday morning, so I'll post it tomorrow. I have a list of folks who receive it each week by email, but if you're reading this blog, my guess is that you'd prefer a link from here.
Be well, my blog friends. I've got lots of reading to do for tomorrow, so I'll be about that now. I hope you all can set yourselves apart from the pre-Christmas season of frantic-ness, and just take time to reflect on "the reason for the season," whether that is a Christian reason, or simply the joy of giving, of family and loving relationships, of gratitude spilling over into generosity, or whatever it may be for you. Don't let the culture drive you, but rather take the time to let the season feed your soul.