Advent is like an early Christmas gift

It's a contemplative time to open yourself to divine wisdom.

Holy Everything — Emily Carson column sig
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Advent, a liturgical season of anticipation, hope and preparation, begins tomorrow and continues until Christmas.

To prepare is to “make ready beforehand.” The next four weeks are a time set apart to get our hearts, minds and lives ready for Jesus’ arrival, born as a babe in Bethlehem.

A multitude of practices exist which can be used during this season. Some of these routines are more overtly religious than others. Morning prayer, Scripture study, daily silence, midweek worship, evening walks, special acts of generosity, spiritual direction, Lectio Divina and small group gatherings are all possibilities.

My friends Russ and Jane loved to mark the season of Advent by attending several musical concerts every week. Russ has since passed away, and I miss his stories of their adventures traveling around southeastern Minnesota in order to hear college bands and choirs and other regional musical ensembles. Setting aside time to be fully immersed in musical experiences can be a deeply meaningful Advent practice.

As we create our own holistic approaches to getting ready for Christmas, we can each identify rituals that inspire within us a sense of spaciousness. What rites and routines move you into postures of dreaming, praying, listening and connecting?


The creation of an Advent wreath is another seasonal practice. They’re typically made using four candles (wax or electric) and the branches of evergreen trees. The construction of the wreath and its use can happen alone or in community with others. A simplified version can be made by putting four candles into a circular dish.

The first candle is lit on the first Sunday of the season, and then each week, another candle is also lit. By the fourth Sunday of Advent, all the candles are burning simultaneously. Gathered near the light of the wreath, we can breathe, pray, read Scripture, sing a hymn, or meditate. The glow of the candles is a reminder of Jesus’ radiant compassion; he was and is a light to the world. Some households and congregations use the wreath exclusively on Sundays, and others light the candles every evening of the season.

Over the next month, as our Advent anticipation grows, we can set expectations and assumptions aside. These weeks aren’t an assignment that needs to be perfectly managed. No one is grading our performance. Instead, this month is like an early Christmas gift and a time to open to divine wisdom.

May the practices we embrace along the way lead us to an unassuming manager, and when we have arrived, may we be astounded all over again by the wonder of Emmanuel, God with us.

"Holy Everything" is a weekly column by Emily Carson. She is a Lutheran pastor. Visit her website .

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