Celebrating the Advent

December 15, 2009

I don’t remember a whole lot about Advent growing up.

I remember that the weekend after Thanksgiving I would be responsible for putting out all three of our nativity scenes, a task I took much joy in and prided myself in making the figurines look authentic in their positioning on the table.

I remember having advent calendars where we would through some form or fashion tick off the days until Christmas, although in my childish mind it was less about the anticipation of Christ’s birth and more about one less day to wait until presents.

And I remember the Advent wreath ceremony at church where each Sunday of Advent one family would read a scripture verse and light a candle on the wreath.  I even got to read the verse for our family one year.

But other than that, I don’t remember paying too much attention to Advent as a child, and certainly not as a college student.  Advent always fell in the midst of exams and so, much like my childhood, the celebration of Advent was largely contained within the confines of Sunday morning worship.

That’s all changed this year.

Last year some friends of mine wrote a blog about the Christmas album by Andrew Peterson entitled Behold the Lamb of God that caught my attention.  I downloaded the album and listened to it a few times, enjoyed it and then tucked it away once Christmas had passed not to be touched for a year.  November 30 came along and I grabbed the CD, the only Christmas music I had with me in my car, and pressed play.  Immediately I was enthralled by the storytelling involved in the music and joyfully worshipped along with it during my commute to work.

To me, this CD is what Advent is all about!  Peterson starts in the Old Testament with the Israelites in Egypt during the Passover and moves from there to their whining to God for a King, to Isaiah’s prophecy about the Messiah and even through the captivity of Israel all before we even begin to touch on the New Testament.

I’m sure your thinking, what kind of Christmas music waits until halfway through the CD to even talk about Christmas??  An Advent CD that’s what.  Think about it.  At the advent candle lighting ceremony at church, the first one always begins with the prophecies of Christ’s coming.  So it’s only natural for Peterson to start in the Old Testament, in fact, I like that he starts with the Passover because it shows the build up in the history of the Israelites before the prophets fortold the coming of the Messiah.  Like any good story teller he’s merely setting the stage.

Once you get through the Old Testament songs, then we’re on to the Christmas story.  My favorite song in the whole album falls here, although I really do love the whole thing, it’s called “Labor of Love”.  It’s the telling of Christ’s birth like I’ve never heard it before.  It makes it real, raw, powerful.  Somehow, in all my 26 years when I’ve thought about the nativity, I’ve pictured Mary as this perfect, angelic woman who gladly gave birth in a manger.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying she was a complainer or anything, but it was a manger for crying out loud.  Animals live, eat and defecate there!  I know I would certainly be looking up at the sky and saying something along the lines of “Really God, you want me to birth YOUR SON, the Saviour of THE WHOLE WORLD here?? HERE!?!”  But then again that’s just me.

This song starts with the following verses. “It was not a silent night, there was blood on the ground.  You could here a woman cry in the alleyway that night on the streets of David’s town.  And the stable was not clean, and the cobblestones were cold, but little Mary full of grace, with the tears upon her face and no mother’s hand to hold”  Wow.  That is definately not the picture I think of when I sing “Silent Night” or assemble my Willow Tree Nativity scene!

Rather then simply typing out the words and why I think they are great, I’ve posted the video from the 2007 concert for you to enjoy yourself.

In addition to my continuous play of this amazing CD, Robert and I purchased an Advent devotional to read together at night during dinner.  It’s nothing fancy, and we’ve certainly missed a few nights due to exams, but it’s really been a sweet time that we’ve both enjoyed.  I think it’s safe to say, that we may have just begun our first Christmas tradition for our family.

I’ve really enjoyed celebrating and meditating on Advent this year and I’d encourage you to start now if you haven’t already, now’s as good a time as any!  And if I’ve peaked your interest on the Behold the Lamb of God album, go here and listen to this free player of the album with lyrics posted alongside.