Advent Series: An Introduction

By Jess Dager

I've shared before on this blog about the difficulty I have with Christmas. It's the time of year I feel most acutely how dysfunctional my extended family is - the estrangements, the alcoholism, the uncomfortable communication. 

Well, that is true, but actually, Christmas growing up could sometimes be a very joyful time for me. My parents and grandparents always did Christmas big. I mean BIG. I mean literally a hundred gifts under the tree and in the stockings and multiple celebrations and did I mention - gifts! When I was 12 I received a beaver fur coat for Christmas - of all things. 

It may not surprise you, but I have some pretty high expectations when it comes to Christmas which I have spent my entire adult life trying to reshape into something that resembles a celebration of Jesus coming to earth. Observing the season of Advent, which is typically the four Sundays prior to Christmas, has helped me in this reshaping journey.

Advent, to put it simply, is a season of preparation. Not the preparation we do for our various gift exchanges and family reunions, but preparation for the morning - Christmas morning, when the Word tells us Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph, in a stable, in Bethlehem.
Remembering that it happened once,
We cannot turn away the thought,
As we go out, cold, to our barns
Toward the long night’s end, that we
Ourselves are living in the world
It happened in when it first happened,

That we ourselves, opening a stall
(A latch thrown open countless times
Before), might find them breathing there,
Foreknown: the Child bedded in straw,
The mother kneeling over Him,
The husband standing in belief
He scarcely can believe, in light
That lights them from no source we see,
An April’s morning’s light, the air
Around them joyful as a choir.
We stand with one hand on the door,
Looking into another world
That is this world
, the pale daylight
Coming just as before, our chores
To do, the cattle all awake,
Our own frozen breath hanging
In front of us; and we are here
As we have never been before,
Sighted as not before, our place
Holy, although we knew it not.

- Wendell Berry
By default, I wake up on Christmas morning with “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” type sentiments streaming through my mind as I anticipate watching my kids open their gifts and preparing for Christmas dinner. 

Mr. Berry describes this sudden entering into an awareness that “we ourselves are living in the world it happened in when it happened first,” and “looking into another world, that is this world.” I’ve found it almost impossible to experience that sort of awareness and sense of Holiness on Christmas Day without some deliberate soul preparation. 

We’ve set aside these next blog posts to help us prepare our souls for Christmas morning. We are praying that amidst the hustle and bustle of the season, you will set aside time to turn your heart to the birth of Jesus and what His coming means for us. We hope you enjoy this exploration of some of our favorite hymns as a fun way of engaging with words we all know well, but perhaps in a slightly deeper way. 

Jess Dager and her husband Ben have been on collegiate staff for 14 years and currently serve at the University of Illinois. They have 3 kiddos ages 16, 15, and 13. Jess enjoys reading, singing, and laughter. Her favorite part of working with students is watching God at work in their lives.


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