I grew up in Evangelical churches. Ones that broke out the Christmas carols as soon as Thanksgiving was over. Where advent focused on the celebration of Christ's coming, where the candles are lit each week as part of the revelry of Christmas. I have loved the joy and majesty of the season. I love singing Carols and having the church lit by twinkly lights.
We attend a Lutheran church now. Our Sunday services marked by the liturgy, of the saying of the Lord's Prayer and taking communion before end each Sunday morning. A church that uses a lectionary of Scripture readings to guide the sermons and services. And this lectionary starts on the first Sunday of Advent, the start of the new church year.
Advent looks different in the Lutheran church. My husband and I have both noticed it. It is more somber, more quiet in the first weeks. Dark almost.
Church on Sunday mornings this month have not felt like Christmas to me. There have been no carols or bells or Merry Christmases. There are advent candles, there are shepherd and sheep on display but missing the rest of the nativity scene. Purple cloth is wrapped across the stoic wood and glass chandelier.
And yet, I am beginning the realize that this is how the days leading up to the first Christmas must have felt like for Mary and Joseph and those waiting for the Messiah. Dark days of oppressive Roman rule, of harsh religious leaders making unbearable demands, of a silent God. All the darkness pointing to the need for light.
I understand more why a Lutheran advent is somber. But it is also expectant - for the Christ child is coming.
This Advent has changed Christmas for me.
But I still miss the carols and twinkly lights.