Advent is a season of waiting, preparing, expecting. It is a time to see the darkness around us and even to confront it and enter into it more deeply – with the spiritual grounding of courage and hope we so desperately need. In contrast to non-stop noise in the culture around us, this is a time for quieting, centering, making ready … to watch the mystery unfold.
Historically, the church has seen this as a penitential season, thus there are similarities with Lent. Yet it is different. In the first week, scripture texts urge to “keep awake,” on high alert to our human weaknesses and inattentiveness – yet with reminders of the gifts and possibilities, the promise of love breaking in. This is a time to remember our baptism, the sacramental bond holding us in relationship with God and one another, and these images are especially vivid in the second and third weeks. Readings on the final two Sundays brings the joy of anticipation, as we turn our attention to Mary and the birth of the Christ Child. This year, in the shortest of Advent seasons, Advent 4 dawns in a flash, with news of the coming incarnation – mystery in the womb, about to be revealed for all the world.
Advent begins Sunday, December 3 and our observance continues through Sunday morning, December 24. Visible signs in the church will begin simply: touches of blue, like the winter sky, and a simple wreath taking shape in our midst. Listen for the changes in the prayers we say together, the music we sing. Notice, as the season deepens, the greening of the church, a sign of the everlasting life that comes to us through Christ. As the time draws near, take part in preparing and adorning the church, as we make room in our hearts for Emmanuel, God made manifest and dwelling with us.
Upcoming special worship services:
• The Longest Night – 7 p.m. Thursday, December 21
• Christmas Eve – 4 p.m. Sunday, December 24
• Christmas Day – 10 a.m. Monday, December 25
[ More about Advent, including study and devotion, and ways to participate. ]
At the entrance (from the 5th and Linden corner doors), the baptismal font stands as a reminder of the church’s rite of initiation, and its waters call us into our baptismal vows. Dip your fingers in the water and, as you desire, make the sign of the cross to ask for God’s blessing and renew your commitment to live the Good News, seeking and serving Christ in all persons. Listen for the images of baptism in Advent scripture readings. At Grace, we strive to live into our baptismal covenant as we explore our call to mission in this downtown community.
The “Nave,” our main worship area, is arranged so that we can see one another, and this season the chairs reflect the circular image of the Advent wreath, in the center of the nave. Notice the subtle changes, the growing light. Imagine the love that is growing, too.
During the gospel procession, the Word is brought into the gathered community for proclamation, a reminder that the Word of God is among us and that we take it in, to be fed, nourished, and transformed by it.
At the time of communion, we gather around the altar as a sign of our unity. Those who need to remain seated are fully included and others stand, filling in spaces in the circle. There is room for all. After the prayers and consecration, the priest distributes the bread around the circle, followed by two Eucharistic Ministers, who offer wine from chalices. As desired, you may receive both bread and wine or communion of one kind (bread or wine); either option you choose is appropriate. To signal your desire to receive a blessing instead, you may cross your arms over your chest.
Advent continues through the morning of Sunday, December 24 (in this shortest of Advent seasons). Christmas is, for us, the Feast of the Nativity – which we will mark on the early eve of December 24 and again on the morning of December 25 – and continues 12 days, to the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6.
To assist our observance of holy days, the commemoration of saints, and lesser feasts and fasts, Forward Movement offers three liturgical calendars, as well as daily meditations and a variety of devotional resources.