Making a Convivial Home: Advent Liturgies

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For 2013 I joined the growing online meme and picked a one-word theme for the year: Habits. I wanted to focus on “getting back on my game” after having a baby last November, and actually having a single focus when I got the bug for “turning over a fresh leaf” throughout the year was helpful (I think it happened when I had two nights in a row with 6 hours of consecutive sleep, but then someone would start waking up again and life would get hazy and fuzzy and raggedy again).

So, I was thinking about how I’d go about picking a theme for this year. Last year’s just seemed obvious. I wanted to recover routines that had been lost. I had several ideas for 2014, but then I realized the theme that was already planned into my year. I’ll be hostessing the book club for Desiring the Kingdom which is about liturgies, I’ll be following along as a Protestant contingent of Everyday Snapshot’s Living the Liturgy theme, and I’ve been thinking about how I need to be more intentional about making this whole “Convivial Home” name apply to our real home. And the “liturgies” theme is really just a continuation of the previous “habits” theme, as will become apparent when we begin the book club.

advent christmas decorating

So, 2014 will see a lot here in this space about liturgies, habits of a happy home, and working out how to make the church year our orienting principle in a Protestant and gospel-centered way. None of these things are things I am actually currently good at. I’ll be writing about them because doing so helps me straighten out my own thinking and helps me keep these things in mind as I live my life with my family in our home.

So, let’s start with Advent. I’ve already written a bit about our advent plans, and yesterday I quoted from a book that helped me think through this topic this year. Now it’s time for some photos and reflections.

Making a Pretty Home

christmas decorating

I think decorating for Christmas is a home liturgy worth pursuing. It does take time. It takes thought. It takes collecting and storing and moving around stuff. It’d be easy to say I was pursuing a “simple” Christmas by not doing all this – less stuff, less clutter, less doing – but the truth is that such a resolve would be laziness rather than simplicity for me.

Adding all these extra touches, all the extra color, all the extra stuff for Christmas is part of what makes the season special. I remember as a kid getting up early in Decembers and laying under the Christmas tree and just staring at the lights in the branches. I loved decorating the tree, I loved reading by the tree, I wanted to sleep in the same room as the tree (and sometimes when the relatives arrived, I did!). The stuff that makes the house special during this time is a large part of what makes memories and makes the child feel a sense of wonder.

christmas memories

So, as the Hidden Art book club reminded us earlier this year, decorating the home is a worthwhile endeavor, even if it’s not glamorous or Pinterest-worthy.

Making Happy Traditions

jesse tree

I know there are streams of the church that celebrate Advent as a penitential season, a season not of bright and cheery Christmas but of remembering the dark waiting the world experienced before Messiah came and fulfilled all things. I don’t necessarily want to discourage anyone from participating in their tradition’s traditions, but since my tradition does not do that, should I pursue that route in our home?

I have decided no, I should not. We do not need to have a season where we pretend Christ has not come. After all, every Sunday we celebrate not only that Christ has come, but that He is Risen. Sunday should set the tone for all subsequent days of the week, every day of the year.

christmas memories

So, Advent is a time of preparation for Christmas for sure: a time to practice those cookie recipes, to practice those carols, to practice and slowly build up to the grand finale: Christmas Day. During Advent our Jesse Tree practice and family devotions center on teaching how all the Old Testament was building up to Christ, but always ending with Christ, which means joy.

advent calendar

Making Fun Memories

The Wilsons, in their parenting books, explain a concept called the “reign of terror,” their strategy for getting back on track after things had slid too far. It dawned on me last week that Advent is evolving into my own little “reign of joy,” and that I need to embrace that and develop it further.

I am not a fun mom. I am not a crafty mom. I am a “Let’s get things taken care of” mom, and I don’t think that that translates readily into fond memories.

christmas memories

So Advent is where I push back against my own proclivities. We make sugar cookies and decorate them. We do some crafty things. We ease up on the plans. We play more music more often. We light candles.

christmas memories

The entire season is one wherein I am reminded that “convivial” means “festive,” and “festive” means fun. It is a season where I remember to lighten up: myself and not just the tree.

christmas advent wreath

Comfort and joy. Comfort and joy. Christ gives us comfort and joy, so comfort and joy should characterize our homes. What better time to focus in on their development than the season wherein we are singing their tidings?

Christ has come. Our real lives are enabled to overflow with peace, gratitude, and joy only because He purchased that on our behalf and bestows it upon us. What more appropriate time to cultivate them than the time spent meditating on His coming?

10 Responses

  1. Kyle @ Aspired Living
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    Hi Mystie,
    I am also reformed Baptist and I am very interested in learning how to apply more liturgy to our lives in a protestant kind of way! ;) I see great value in refocusing our lives and our minds because like the ISrealites wea re a stiff necked people. We need a constant reminders! Blessings from another Let’s get things done Mama!

    • Mystie Winckler
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      Thanks for commenting, Kyle! We definitely do need constant reminders, so the cycle of the year always bringing back these reminders for us seems like a good thing to embrace. :)

  2. kortney
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    comfort + joy…yes!

    more candles + music….yes!

    your lighten up post…yes!

    living liturgies convivially in our homes with our families…yes!

  3. Lisa
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    This is the third or fourth time this year that I’ve seen a reference to people who approach Christmas without any joy. I’m wondering who these people are? I have never encountered a person who purposely eschewed the joy of Christmas in order to pretend that we are still in darkness before the coming of Christ. I know that there are those who are joyless because of disbelief, but what is being described in the things I’ve read is believers who purposely try to avoid the joy of the season. It’s sad really. All Christians should always be full of joy, even in repentance and sorrow for sin. In the Orthodox tradition we fast during Advent, but not with a spirit of despair – rather it’s a spirit of anticipation for the coming of the great feast! I wonder if people have taken the idea of fasting and twisted it….
    If you have any more thoughts about this, Mystie, if love to hear them.

    • Mystie Winckler
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      Thanks for engaging me on this, Lisa! I don’t want to misrepresent the Orthodox or Catholic position, and I can’t speak about that sort of advent tradition with any personal experience at all. I have only been part of a pentecostal and now a reformed church.

      Whenever the Bible speaks of fasting, it is out of sorrow, so Advent as fasting would make it a season of sparsity and sorrow, correct? When I have heard people talk about how to made advent a preparation instead of celebrating Christmas during Advent, it has been things like: no tree, no lights, no treats, no happy Christmas songs but only the Advent hymns (which are generally minor-key and not particularly joyful). When I have seen people argue for Advent as distinct from Christmas, it is about things *not* done, mostly focusing on no Christmas decorating until Christmas (I think that’s more Lutheran) and only Advent hymns and not Christmas hymns, and how this dark time of year is an appropriate setting for Advent.

      What I have decided is that for our family, who has no liturgical fasting tradition, it is perfectly legitimate to actually celebrate Christmas during Advent. We don’t have to fast to make the feast of Christmas better (which doesn’t mean repentance isn’t necessary! It is even on Christmas Day). We can work up to it. Just as the advent candles are lit, first one, then another, then three….we can build up our celebration, adding more and more fun and celebration in the month of December.

      My guess would be that those who are in a tradition that fasts for Advent do so in a more holistic way, but those who are nondenominational evangelical, without roots, are making their own way and not tethered to a solid understanding, and therefore more likely to pick strange or inconsistent practices. Or, what I’ve seen the most of: celebrate Christmas during advent but feel guilty about it.

      I focused in on *joy* because fun is what I need to work on myself and because Joy to the World is my favorite Christmas carol, not because I think that’s what Orthodox or Catholic are missing! Only that that is what I will be emphasizing, and for us that means feasting, not fasting.

      We will be singing Joy to the World all month.

  4. Lisa
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    “Whenever the Bible speaks of fasting, it is out of sorrow, so Advent as fasting would make it a season of sparsity and sorrow, correct?”

    Sparsity, yes. Sorrow for sins, yes, but not a sorrow of despair and hopelessness. “Bright sadness” is a way that’s been used to describe it. Fasting is for cleansing and lessening the distance between oneself and God. It’s awfully hard to pray with a full stomach! ;)
    With regards to Advent it’s sort of like not eating all day before a great big party so you can arrive hungry and take your fill with all the more pleasure. Or like when you get married and in order to look your best on the big day you diet and exercise extra during that time before the wedding in order to prepare. (That’s my own take – not an official Orthodox teaching :) )

    “My guess would be that those who are in a tradition that fasts for Advent do so in a more holistic way, but those who are nondenominational evangelical, without roots, are making their own way and not tethered to a solid understanding, and therefore more likely to pick strange or inconsistent practices. Or, what I’ve seen the most of: celebrate Christmas during advent but feel guilty about it.”

    This makes perfect sense. Definitely explains these references I keep encountering.

    I really love your emphasis on joy. It *is* such a joyous occasion and we absolutely should celebrate!

    I wonder if some of the misrepresentation and confusion stems from disagreements about whether we ought to be celebrating before the party actually starts, if you know what I mean. Maybe there’s also a backlash to the commercialization of Christmas. You’ve really got me thinking today. Thanks!

  5. Lindsey
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    Hi there! Thanks for a glimpse into your family’s celebration of Advent! I will be interested to see your Protestant take on liturgy in your home as well. I grew up (and still am) in a Pentecostal church, but I’ve always been attracted to more liturgical traditions. I spent a few years in an Anglican setting, and one of the things I really appreciated was the sense of rhythm in the church calendar, and the sense of “retracing” the steps of the great Biblical story.

    With a 3 year old and 18 month old, we are just figuring out our own Advent traditions.

  6. Bronwyn
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    I appreciate this very much. My youngest just turned 10 and I think sometimes I am still claiming (in my mind, at least) that I just had a baby and I’ll get back to the “extras” in time. Time has come and gone! Thank you for this wonderful encouragement.

    • Mystie Winckler
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      Yes, my oldest is 10 and I have been realizing, “Oh! If we don’t do it *now*, it won’t ever be a ‘tradition’ for him!” :)

  7. Pam
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    I love the way you are always so thoughtful about these things Mystie. I am also a bit selfishly glad to hear that you will be focusing on liturgies this year, because it is a topic near and dear to my heart as well. And not just Church liturgies, but in the broader sense of the word — relating to lifestyle, relationship and homeschooling. So I will be keeping close notes.

    As for Advent, the preparation is not just for the coming of the Christ-child but also a remembrance of the second coming of Christ. So while we are preparing for Christmas, true, there is also an element of preparing our hearts for that second coming — maybe through a bit fasting and prayer. But I agree that it does not have to be done in dread, but can be done joyfully — even fasting.

    That said, my tree is up, and I too love the lights. One of my favorite things as a child was how we left them on all night on Christmas Eve and now we do that in our own home. :-)