It's December 1, and in the Christian tradition, Advent started yesterday. Shopping season started Friday, in case you have been somewhere without any electronic communication.
So how this year to feel the joy of the season, to become immersed in the celebration without going overboard on spending or jaded by the commercialism and "must-do" stuff?
Joanna Powell Colbert, one of my favorite bloggers, has a lovely post today with suggestions for observing Advent, or the Return of the Light.
As you may know, we are counting down not only the days until Christmas, but also until the winter solstice -- the shortest day of the year. You've noticed that sunset comes earlier and earlier -- and if you're a morning person, which I admittedly am not, you know the sunrise comes later and later. Fewer hours of sun. Or, if you're in Indiana, of gray.
While I was raised a United Methodist and have worked for the church on local levels, but also have more than a passing acquaintance with the conference and general church levels, I haven't actively attended for at least 12 years. Before that, I was active not only as an employee, but also a participant on various committees and boards, and sang regularly in the choir.
It was mostly a big social outlet for me: I met some wonderful people there, some with whom I am still friends after more than 25 years. I loved singing. I grew up singing in the choirs, singing at home, and knew all the arias and recitatives to Messiah, regardless of vocal range and voice part. I knew most of the choruses too, and as I sang the oratorio for many years in various choirs, learned the alto parts to nearly all of them.
It's still not quite Christmas for me until I play the CD and sing along.
And I have lots of Christmas CDs with various choral arrangements of old favorites as well as not as well known carols and hymns, and I love to listen to them and sing with them while I'm baking or decorating.
But I digress....that is another whole post.
My core beliefs have redirected a bit, however. I am a very spiritual person, but I have not been wholly comfortable with Christian beliefs for some years, and yet, I find great comfort in that community of music and ritual. I'm not sure what I am, actually, but I do know I've gained comfort and blessing from more earth-centered beliefs, drawing on the land, the sun, the stars, the moon, and those great core beliefs central to the world's major religions: be kind, be thoughtful, treat others as you wish to be treated yourself, be honest, give thanks always, speak truth to yourself and to others.
From Joanna's post, I found this lovely suggestion for incorporating an Advent observance, and it is one I plan to do this year.
Darkness has certainly been present in our lives this year, many of us, because of economics, illness, family circumstances. It has brought fear to us and uncertainty about the future. What better way to help our emotions and give us hope than lighting candles, waiting for the Light to return to us, in a regular ritual!
I need the light in my life. I need to have something to look forward to, that I KNOW without doubt will happen. The return of the sun -- the gradual lengthening of the days beginning on the solstice Dec. 21 -- is one such event. This WILL happen. Things WILL become brighter.
May your Advent be filled with anticipation and light.