Saturday, December 21, 2013
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2013
As Norma and I were growing up in Memphis and St. Louis, neither of us belonged to a church which observed the Advent season. There might have been Christmas lights on a display that tracked contributions to the Lottie Moon Foreign Missions Offering, but there was no "greening" of the church, no Chrismon tree nor Advent wreath, and practically all of the music at the Sunday worship services was limited to familiar Christmas carols.
After we married and moved to Louisville in 1976 to begin our seminary studies, we discovered Advent traditions for the first time. Broadway Baptist Church became our new church home, and to our great surprise we found there a vast array of methods by which to prepare for the Christ Child each year. Many of these observances accompanied us to our student church in southern Indiana and eventually to our first full-time congregation in Georgia.
Once we arrived in Atlanta, we were determined to incorporate the traditions of Advent in the life of our young family. We went to the Cokesbury bookstore near our house and bought an Advent wreath which we took home and placed in the center of our dining room table. Each night around a family meal, we would note another day in the Advent season, and on each of the four Sundays, one of the children would light a candle in the wreath. It is a tradition that we continued after we moved to Savannah in 1994 and that we practice to the present day.
As the first of our children to marry and establish a home of her own, Rachel one day remarked to her mother: "Gosh, it sure would be nice to have an Advent wreath to mark the days leading up to Christmas." That was all the encouragement my wife required, and within a matter of hours she had gone to the internet, found the manufacturer of the same wreath we had bought nearly thirty years before, and purchased nearly exact replicas for each of our children. And that is how one of our family's most meaningful traditions -- born of a new experience in Louisville and later transplanted to Atlanta and Savannah -- continues to live in the experience of another generation of our family in Asheville, Savannah, and Washington, DC.
Thanks be to God for the traditions, new and old, that define our lives during this holy season of the year.
- John Finley