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Fall Edition
Volume 99, Number 2

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Advent Preparation

Musicians playing in outside location

Katie Ness '08

At dusk, brass ensemble members declare hopeful tidings for the Advent season.

By Milton Gaither

Growing up Southern Baptist, we didn’t do Lent, holy days, church calendar, or any of the other “trappings” of Popery. But for some reason, Advent was OK. Year after year, I would watch one family unit a week walk up the steps at the front of the church to light a candle, explain the significance of that candle’s color, and then lead the congregation in prayer. I thought it was weird.

When I got to college, I learned a bit about the larger context from which the Advent stuff was pulled. I learned that the early church had sanctified the entire year by making it a recapitulation of the life of Christ and His Church, filling every day with memorials to heroes and heroines of the faith (saints) and setting aside special days to commemorate key events in the life of Christ and of hi mother. Advent thus began to make sense to me as one of many seasons in the Church year.

Now that I have returned to the historic Church (our family became Eastern Orthodox on the Feast of the Transfiguration, 2001), Advent has taken on a powerful significance. While the rest of the nation is swathed in tinsel and lights and enjoying “Christmas” parties in early December, Orthodox Christians are preparing for the coming of Christ by engaging in the same 40-day fast from meat and dairy products that we do prior to Pascha (Easter). The Christmas carols aren’t sung until Christmas day, which initiates an entire season of festive rejoicing lasting through the commemoration of Christ’s presentation and circumcision in the temple.

It is admittedly a strange feeling to be fasting, praying, mourning “in lonely exile” as the fine Western carol puts it, even as other Christians are passing around the ham and chocolates and joining in jovial Christmas carols at parties throughout the month of December. But it makes it easier to pray. When I take a pass on that steaming roast at the employee luncheon, I’m holding a secret conversation with Jesus, saying to myself and him, “I’m waiting for you. Come back soon.” And then, when Christmas at long last does come, the hams and turkeys become for me as delightful as presents when I was a child. With sincere joy I join in the cry, “Christ is Born! Glorify Him!”

Milton Gaither is assistant professor of education.

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