Not being at my church home through Advent felt odd. However, it was interesting to leave a “Christmas” culture (the decorations, Hallmark Christmas marathon, “holiday musak” have been non stop since October) and travel to a region with an “Advent” culture. During our time in Austria (Erl) visiting with Sommer, Alexander and Noa (our daughter’s family), Trish and I observed and enjoyed deeply ingrained traditions that focus on preparation.
The Advent wreath was prominently displayed in every home and venue with four red candles. There seemed to be no controversy over the traditions of purple or blue.) While walking back to our hotel one evening after viewing a rehearsal of the opera my daughter is directing, we heard a beautiful chorus wafting through the air. We followed the sound and came upon Advent Carolers carrying lanterns, dressed in traditional clothing, walking through the one thousand people village, “bringing Christmas to the various households.” The carols, richly Tyrolean, were not Christmas carols.
From Weinachtmarts to the festival of St. Nicolas, the broader community was engaged in Advent. We even enjoyed a 6 AM Advent Mass (which required traveling forty minutes) accompanied by a harp and a choir of eight singing regional Advent carols.
I appreciate the opportunity our vacation afforded us to change pace, to enter into an alternate perspective that created a new awareness. Now, I am under no illusion that maintaining these traditions automatically produces a deeper spirituality or improved discipleship. However, the experience awakened my imagination to envision how our Advent
season could become a richer period of anticipation. How can we frame our “traditions” so that as we come to the festival of the nativity of Jesus, we are richly prepared to wonder, to pause, to savor the mystery of love?
I am glad to be here with you as we enter these remaining days of waiting; of opening our hearts to the amazing, unpredictable Creative Spirit who becomes forever real to us in the image of a child.