Advent and Liturgy

Advent is a season of the Christian liturgical year, which means that there are specific scripture readings and themes taught on each of the four Sundays of Advent (mostly in the more liturgical Christian traditions, i.e.: Catholic, Anglican, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, and others who use the Common Lectionary, a collection of scripture readings appointed for each day of the year). If you are interested, you can find the list of this year’s weekly scripture readings for Advent from the Common Lectionary here: http://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/lections.php?year=A&season=Advent . Each week’s reading includes a passage from the Old Testament, from a Gospel, from a New Testament epistle, and from a Psalm.

While some may think liturgy is old-fashioned or too tied to legalism, I have come to appreciate the value of traditional liturgy in giving me words to express the deepest spiritual realities of my life. When we light a candle on the Advent wreath, or read the prophecies of the coming kingdom, or sing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” we are given words to express our deepest desires for a complete wholeness that nothing around us can provide.

In addition to giving me words to express things that are in some ways beyond my capacity for words, the liturgy also focuses me (let’s be honest, I could use the help). The responsive readings force me to slow down and provide a space for me to recognize how much I long for Jesus’ coming. I think sometimes we’ve often forgotten what we are longing for, and Advent lets us speak our longing openly and plainly by helping us fix it on Christ. Advent is not simply a longer span of time to enjoy peppermint mochas, caroling, and Christmas trees (although I do enjoy those things a lot); it’s also a time for us to fix our hope and longing on Christ’s return and on the day when all things will be put right.

Finally, liturgy connects me to the other members of the body of Christ—across time and across language barriers. Christians have been praying this way and practicing these traditions for centuries around the world (which is one of the reasons I think these traditions are important and am hesitant to disregard them), and joining in that tradition reminds me that I am not alone (which is always a good thing to know… and maybe you need to hear that too).

Author: Alicia McClintic

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