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Advent wreath Русский: Рождественский венок Sl...

Advent wreath Русский: Рождественский венок Slovenčina: Adventný veniec (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A tenured Reformed Church in America (RCA) pastor encouraged me to “bring my Catholicism” into my eventual RCA ministry when I began my journey to ordination. He said that there is much richness of allowing for mystery, and the rituals of the church year that Reformed Protestants must glean for a deeper relationship with God. Once I got over the shock of being encouraged to mix the Catholicism of my youth and the Calvinism of my adulthood (What would Jean Calvin have said??), I took the pastor’s advice to heart as an imperative.

This is the reason why God put me in this denomination, I thought.

Skip ahead five years. I am a wet-behind-the-ears solo pastor serving my first congregation. In preparation for Advent, I announce to my Consistory (church leadership board), the decoration committee, and the small music team what needs to happen. I assume they know all about Advent and how to practice the lovely seasonal spiritual discipline properly. After all, the church does own an Advent wreath, and has used it in the past. I can tell because there are wax drippings all over the fake evergreen wreath.

We can have decorations, but the primary color needs to be purple. Christmas trees are fine, but they need to be naked. We will redecorate for the Christmas Eve service — lights, the nativity scene, and a color change to white. It will be beautiful! No Christmas hymns or choral anthems until the Christmas Eve service. Regarding the annual children’s program, how about we find a script that talks/teaches about Advent, or we write one of our own? Or, better yet, how about we have the children’s Christmas program on one of the two Sundays after Christmas, during the actual liturgical Christmas season?

I am excited. How wonderfully liturgical we will be! I thought. More importantly, though, we will be engaging in a centuries old spiritual discipline as a congregation. Counter to what is going on around us in our materialistic Christmas-hyped society, we will be examining ourselves, tuning into God, practicing waiting and silence, and by the Spirit’s gift connecting with believers of old who were waiting for the Messiah. (For an awesome reflection on joy and benefits of practicing Advent, please click here.)

What darkness did they experience? Did they feel that God was distant? Were they desperately yearning for their deliverer?

My congregation? Not excited. In fact, some folks are outright displeased. The decoration committee, I am told, “declined to follow my request.” The children’s program will proceed as planned. After all, pastor, you arrived here only in September, and plans were already in the making. The choir has been working on its annual cantata since June. Do you really want to flush all of that work down the toilet, pastor? Oh, and the music has already been planned, too. The music team plans all music for the church year each January.

Thus begun annual Advent worship wars between me and my former congregation. In the almost six years that I served them, this was never quite resolved. I recognize now that my approach to my sheep was terribly authoritarian. I lacked grace and empathy for people who were not accustomed to practicing Advent. Moreover, I was plain old disrespectful in the way that I communicated. My congregation, for their part, just wanted “Christmas season” (the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas) worship like they had always had it.

I no longer serve a congregation because God called me out of pastoral ministry towards writing as my vocation, and caring for my family.

I remain passionate about Advent. Each year my soul exits Thanksgiving craving for preparatory time for Christmas that doesn’t involve sales, shopping in the wee hours of the morning, and scurrying from one place to another. I need silence. I need to hear God whispering to me, to feel the Holy Spirit seeping into me like the most fragrant of oils. Practicing Advent provides this for me.

This is why I’m doing the Deeply Loved Advent blog hop series.

Advent seriesExciting Deeply Loved Advent blog hop series announcements!!

** Participating authors
Judy Douglass, Ilona Hadinger, Randi Perez Helm, Keri Wyatt Kent, Connie Jakab, Angie Mabry-Nauta, Meadow Rue Merrill, Matthew van Maastricht, and Karen Yates

**Never-before done on “Woman, in Progress…” a drawing for a BOOK GIVEAWAY!
But, not just any book giveaway. Thanks to the generosity of the authors listed below, we’ll be giving away 13 books!

Winners will be drawn and announced on December 7, 14, 21, and 25 on “Woman, in Progress…”. Each drawing will name two winners! Authors will mail their book(s) directly to the winner.

To enter the drawing, simply comment on one or more of the participating authors’ blog posts throughout the week. Multiple drawing entries are permitted, as each time you comment, your name goes into the drawing. Names of commenters will be placed into a bag and randomly drawn. Each week begins a new drawing, so YES, you have more than one chance to win! Weeks for the Deeply Loved Advent blog hop series run Sunday – Saturday.

**Books in the Deeply Loved Advent blog hop series drawing.
Praise God for these talented, godly, and generous authors, and the books that the Holy Spirit inspired them to write.

Amy Julia BeckerA Good and Perfect Gift: Faith, Expectations, and a Little Girl Named Penny

Ed Cyzewski and Derek CooperHazardous: Committing to the Cost of Following Jesus 

Mary DeMuthEverything: What You Give and What You Gain to Become Like Jesus

Judy DouglassLetters to My Children: Secrets of Success

Leslie Leyland FieldsThe Spirit of Food: 34 Writers on Feasting and Fasting Toward God

Jennifer GrantLove You More: The Divine Surprise of Adopting My Daughter

Jennifer GrantMOMumental: Adventures in the Messy Art of Raising a Family

Connie JakabCulture Rebel: Because the World Has Enough Desperate Housewives

Keri Wyatt KentDeeply Loved: 40 Ways in 40 Days to Experience the Heart of Jesus

Lara KrupickaPampering Gifts: Crafting a Ministry of Treating People Well for Less

Margaret Ann PhilbrickBack to the Manger

Karen Swallow PriorBooked: Literature in the Soul of Me

Margot StarbuckThe Girl in the Orange Dress: Searching for a Father Who Does Not Fail

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