The first Sunday of Advent, and the first week of Advent, always seems to sneak up on me each year. I give myself permission for it not to be perfect, to be a little on “island time”, so to speak, and to jump in when I can. I like to think not only of the beautiful fun, the “outer” trappings of Advent if you will, but also the “inner” strings that vibrate and hum and hold this season together, and the fasting that many of us do in spirit (and in flesh) to lead into Advent. In our homes, it begins with us.
The Inner Strings:
This is the first week of Advent, and I have some beautiful things to share with you. My father-in-law is a priest of many years, and he is working with this beautiful early Irish confession for this week. I have taken this confession up in turn, and it may resonate with those of you who are including fasting as part of your Advent practice:
Jesus, forgive my sins.
Forgive the sins that I can remember and the sins I have forgotten.
Forgive the wrong actions I have committed, and the right actions I have omitted.
Forgive the times I have been weak in the face of temptation, and those when I have been stubborn in the face of correction.
Forgive the times I have been proud of my own achievements, and those when I failed to boast of your works.
Forgive the harsh judgments I have made of others, and the leniency I have shown to myself.
Forgive the lies I have told to others, and the truths I have avoided.
Forgive the pain I have caused others, and the indulgence I have shown to myself.
Jesus have pity on me, and make me whole. Amen.
(This, is, of course, the confession before the Peace in a Divine Liturgy, and before the Eucharist that brings “heaven intertwined with earth” where we take the Divine Life inside ourselves…I just want to point out the beautiful circle of joy that is within the church and Advent, lest this confession sound without hope by itself. Advent, is after all, joy and hope and abiding. All of these things!)
May we be wakeful at sunrise to begin a new day for you,
Cheerful at sunset for having done our work for you,
Thankful at moonrise and under starshine for the beauty of your universe;
And may we add what little may be in us to add to your great world. — The Abbot of Grace
May we fast from the rampant commercialism of this time of year, and focus on a meaningful and simple celebration of Advent. I will talk more about toys and gift-giving later this week.
This week may we clean, and de-clutter the toyshelves and bookshelves and closets.
The Beautiful Fun:
I have not set up or decorated anything yet. I am still running on island time, and just enjoying being together.
We have been reading the wonderful book “Saint Nicholas” by Jakob Streit that has been re-issued and published anew, plus many other wonderful Saint Nicholas books that you can find here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2012/12/05/favorite-stories-for-saint-nicholas/ If you scroll down to the bottom, you can find a link to the little breads I make for this special day.
I am dusting off many of the ideas for this first week of Advent, this week of stones and rock and seashells and crystals and bones, as even the mineral kingdom itself prepares. You can see this post for more detail: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2012/11/25/celebrating-the-first-week-of-advent/ (Favorites include star gazing, the singing of hymns that mention stars and the cosmos, just like this line from Liturgy: “from You cascades music like a million stars”), and the making of felt stuffed stars, St. Nicholas ornaments from red felt and walnut heads, and straw stars).
And lastly, please don’t forget Christine Natale’s wonderful post here about starting new traditions: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/12/06/christine-natales-musings-on-saint-nicholas-day-and-starting-new-holiday-traditions/