Tonight, I am baking a loaf of homemade bread. It’s the start of the Advent season, and I got my wife one of those Advent calendars with little jars of jams and honeys. Of course, while it was a gift for her, I’m counting on her willingness to share with me each morning! I’ve baked this particular loaf of bread before. (Being diagnosed with food allergies a few years ago forced me to learn some new skills.) But tonight’s baking feels different. Tonight, I am not only baking in anticipation of a delicious slice of fresh warmed bread tomorrow. I’m baking in anticipation of an entire season of music, lights, stories, fun traditions, gatherings at Tree of Life, and trips to see family.
As hard as it might be to believe, Advent was once a penitential season within the Christian tradition. It was meant to be a solemn 40 days of fasting and prayer while waiting for the celebration to come. There is value in having quiet, solemn observances. It’s one reason we are hosting our annual “Blue Christmas” service on December 21st, the longest night of the year. We need times to slow down and contemplate the painful truths of our lives. And waiting can be hard, whether we are waiting for news of a loved one’s health, waiting for the results of an election, or waiting for a painful memory to loosen its grip on our hearts. All religions have rituals and seasons for solemnity.
But I appreciate how Advent and the start of winter in the Northern Hemisphere has changed over time. While it is still a time of waiting – for holiday gatherings, for the New Year, for the return of the light – we are encouraged to wait in wonder.
Wonder is our Soul Matters theme for the month of December. There are multiple meanings of this word (something I plan to explore from our pulpit!), but here at the start of the month, I invite you to consider this definition from the American Heritage Dictionary:
The emotion aroused by something awe-inspiring, astounding, or surprising.
What is awe-inspiring, astounding, or surprising in your life these days? What brings you to experience wonder? Is there anything you do – or need to do – to cultivate opportunities for wonder? For me, tonight, that is baking bread, preparing myself for some wonderful treats over the next few days. What other traditions might open us, individually and as a congregation, to the experience of wonder this month?
If you are interested in diving deeper into the theme of Wonder, use this form
Rev. Jennifer Gracen