For many years now I have posted a daily Advent calendar throughout Advent. This has resulted in quite an archive of photographs, poems, reflections and liturgy – link listed under ‘Advent’ in my sidebar.
This year I am re-cycling my 2010 calendar, slightly updated for content and adjusted to take into account that the length of Advent varies from year to year. I am doing this for a number of reasons:
in my current role, Advent is a busy season, and though it is alright to be busy it is not good to be hurried, rushed, or to encroach on margins of rest;
in taking a break from new material, I hope to refresh my capacity for creativity;
this December marks my tenth anniversary as a faith/theology blogger, and while I have posted less frequently over 2014, I want to celebrate that;
2010 is my personal favourite calendar, and the one which I believe is most helpful to revisit, as it engages with what it might look like to make room for Jesus at the centre of our lives, in very practical ways throughout our homes.
If we find it hard to live as Christians in a post-Christian culture, the problem is not that we live in a post-Christian culture but that we are post-Christian in our own practice of life. That is, the problem lies not ‘out there’ where we can do nothing about it, but internally – where we can do something about it.
Rituals are symbolic patterns of behaviour by which we create and nurture the stories we live by, the values we claim. Rituals are necessary, because without them life is merely functional – which is a very poor way to live. Everyone has rituals – setting aside time to watch a favourite soap opera is a daily ritual – and our rituals inform our values and shape who we are (so, soap opera storylines are often used to change the attitude of the general public towards certain minority groups within society).
The Church has always acted-out faith at least in part through ritual. However, where one generation carries on a ritual for tradition’s sake alone, the tendency of the following generation is to throw out ritual itself, rather than to do the work of reinventing ritual so that it better meets their needs. As ritual is a vehicle for carrying belief, throwing out ritual itself is somewhat like getting rid of a small car but not replacing it with a bigger car when your family grows – assuming that a car, rather than a particular small car, is cumbersome.
It is impossible to live without ritual (and here I recognise that the car analogy breaks down, because it is possible to live without a car; we might replace ‘car’ with other modes of transport, including public transport and bicycles). The question is, do our rituals nurture or strangle our faith? And, what sort of rituals might help nurture our faith, might help us to make room for Jesus at the centre of our lives?
The idea behind this particular Advent calendar series is not that anyone would attempt every suggestion, but that you might find some that resonate with you – or be inspired to come up with your own.