One of my earliest memories is singeing my eyelashes while blowing out an Advent candle. I distinctly remember standing at the crate that served as our coffee table, leaning in to blow out the first candle and jumping back as my parents gasped. Undaunted, I leaned back in and blew out the second. I wasn’t about to forfeit my turn blowing out the candles to my sister over a little heat.
I remember the coziness of the candlelit room, the gentle voices of my parents as we recited the Luke 2 account of Jesus’ birth, the soft illustrations of our Tasha Tudor Christmas book and the thrill of getting to choose the evening’s song — my parents finally had to limit “The Twelve Days of Christmas” to only once per week. I absolutely loved the rituals of Advent.
Now, I have two children of my own, and at ages eight and 11, they still look forward to the Advent ritual. Even now, we have a candle-blowing rotation — no singed lashes in this house; my cautionary tale works wonders. Our exact ritual varies from year to year, and has grown more elaborate as they have gotten older, but every single night, we come home to God together, entering a candlelit holy mystery.
With an older, busier family, this is more complicated than it was with toddlers. But we make room for it. When we don’t, we’re all a little discombobulated. Slowing down each night helps the rest of life shake out into perspective. Suddenly, some of the busyness doesn’t seem so important. Life irons out a little as we shift our orientation to the coming Messiah.
In my congregation, I have listened to family after family describe the transformative power of celebrating Advent at home. Each family’s ritual is different, and we all learn from one another.
Over the years in our church, we have invited people of all ages to use the same resource for the Advent season. I love catching snippets of conversations between children and adults in the hallways, talking about their Advent wreaths or about the week’s story. When we all celebrate this season of the church year together, I see the effects spilling out in the rest of the year.
The cohesion that has happened in my church family is a big reason I wanted this year’s Advent at Home resource from Mennonite Church USA to align with the Leader resource, which many congregations use in worship. How many more conversations can be sparked this way? How much more deeply can we enter the story?
This year’s theme, “Dare to Imagine,” was dreamed up by a great team of writers for Leader. I love the way it calls us into the story of the Bible and into the story of this world we live in. The Advent at Home resource riffs on the theme, with varying entry points for imagination. Some are more creative, some more heady, some simple and some more complicated. I look forward to the discoveries we’ll make in my household, in the households of my congregation and across MC USA.
The world feels like a bit of a mess right now, and times like this call for big imaginations. What can happen when we activate those imaginations around the now-but-not-yet of Advent? How will we be transformed?
This Advent, we’re all invited to slow down and come home to God — to join other households across the age span in reading the same Scriptures and doing some of the same activities, to make room for Jesus to break into our lives in the mysterious now-but-not-yet paradox of Advent, to dare to imagine God’s shalom made flesh through the birth of Jesus Christ.
Talashia Keim Yoder is a pastor at College Mennonite Church in Goshen, Ind., and lives in Goshen with her husband, Daniel, and their two sons. She is the theatre director at Bethany Christian Schools and the founder and content writer behind This is the Story and Building Faith. This reflection originally appeared at mennoniteusa.org.