Advent 2016: O Gladsome Light

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We’re going to be doing something a little different here for the season of advent.  I’ve decided to create a simple advent liturgy for each week to share with all of you.  To be honest, I am doing this mostly for our own family’s benefit!  We have never been very consistent about celebrating the advent season, so hopefully this will help us to intentionally seek out the wonder and meaning behind it.

I love Christmas time.  I love everything about it--the decorations, the lights, gift giving, the snow (when there is any!), even the sappy Christmas songs that are constantly playing in every store, office, and radio station for the entire month.  None of it gets old for me.  But our family has always struggled to take time out for an advent tradition.  We do deer processing as a family business in the fall and early winter, and here in Michigan, firearm season is November 15-30.  We work practically around the clock and think about nothing other than processing deer for about two and a half weeks.  So when December rolls around, advent has already begun and I’m too tired to try to come up with some kind of tradition to keep or devotional to follow.  So that’s why, this year, I am preparing these simple little advent liturgies in advance.  I hope they are a blessing to my family, and to yours as well if you choose to follow along.

Each liturgy will be very short and simple; 15 minutes or less.  There’s no crafts to prepare, or long, involved projects you have to work on every day; just a hymn, poem or art, reflection, and short prayer, to help us slow down once a week and reflect on the meaning of the season.  All you will need is an advent wreath, Bible and your family.  For your wreath, I would recommend finding or making one with thicker pillar candles instead of the tall skinny taper candles in case you want to light it throughout the week...otherwise you’ll burn up your whole taper before the end of the season!

The series is based loosely around themes found in the ancient hymn, “O Gladsome Light.”  I first heard this hymn over the summer and I haven’t been able to get it off of my mind since then.  It’s not a traditional hymn for Christmas, but it is traditionally sung in the evening as candles are lit to illumine the darkness.  This feels appropriate to me for the season of Advent since Advent anticipates the coming of the light of Christ.  The world was in darkness, and then the Light of the World came in the flesh to bring peace, joy, and hope.  The lighting of candles in the evening reminds us that, although darkness is all around us, we can have hope to see us through until the dawn.

“O Gladsome Light” is also the oldest known Christian hymn (outside of the hymns and songs of the Bible).  Its earliest form was written as early as the third or fourth century.  So as you listen to and sing it, be aware that you are taking part in a tradition that has existed for centuries!

If your family does not have an advent tradition or you’re scrambling to find something last minute, I sincerely hope you will consider joining us.  It is with great humility-and some fear-that I approach this project.  I have never written a “devotional” before, and the notion of being a “spiritual guide” of sorts is a little intimidating.  My prayer from the beginning of this project has been that God would “guide the beginning of my work, direct its progress, and bring it to completion.”   

If you would like more ideas and inspiration for advent, I’ve started an advent board on pinterest.  I’ll add resources there as I come across them, such as diy advent wreath ideas, projects, crafts, further reading, etc.  I would, however, caution you against trying to do too much.  We will mostly just be doing our weekly liturgies.  No pressure!  Make sure to follow Full and Generous Life on pinterest to see what we find (just click on the pinterest icon at the top right of this page).

You can follow along here each week with a new liturgy each Monday, but as an added bonus for subscribers, I have put together a printable PDF document of all the liturgies, sheet music for the hymn, and a simple advent wreath project.  If you’re not already on the email list, just enter your email address in the sidebar or at the bottom of the page and follow the instructions in the email you receive.  If you’re already a subscriber, you should have received it in your email inbox!

Blessings to all of you as we enter the advent season.  May you experience the joy and wonder of the season this year in a fresh, new way.

Take the next step:

Does your family have any advent traditions?

Have you used an advent liturgy or devotional in the past?  If so how did it help you to focus on the meaning of the season?

If not, consider finding a devotional or joining us!