When our children were young, a friend gave me a pattern for a felt nativity. It functioned as an Advent calendar with instructions for a daily family devotion or activity . Each day I would read a short message and someone would hang a sheep, or a star, or an angel on the large dark blue felt square hanging on our refrigerator door. The small felt pieces naturally clung to the felt background. It was such a simple little thing, but the kids loved it. They used to clamor for a specific piece that they wanted to hang. We counted the days until Christmas this way.
As the children grew older and were no longer interested in felt nativities, I started a little Advent devotion of my own. I bought several books and every morning I turn on my iTunes playlist filled with Celtic Christmas music, mostly instrumental, and I sit in my comfortable though worn leather rocker-recliner and read daily meditations from my Advent books.
This year I’m reading Advent Christmas 2000 (Year C) by Mark Link, S.J., Trim Your Lamps Daily – Advent Meditations by Fr. M. Basil Pennington, O.C.S.O, Let it Be – Advent and Christmas Meditations for Women edited by Therese Johnson Borchard, and Kneeling in Bethlehem by Ann Weems.
I used to sing in the choir. We raised our children with a Catholic education and as a family we attended Mass every Sunday. We were actively involved in church and the associated school’s activities. We enjoyed friends in this faith community and it filled a place in our lives.
A lot has happened over the years. Our children grew up and left along with their activities that drew us into a faith community. The church’s priest scandal came to light and I found it difficult to forgive the decisions made by the church hierarchy. The Catholic church continued, and even strengthened, its position about the role of women. I looked around and thought, Can I really be an active member of an organization that would never allow me to be in a leadership role merely because of my gender?
When we moved out of the community right after Christmas in 2009, to get closer to my parents’ house, Mark and I sought and found a church we felt comfortable in. But without the children to pull us into activities, and with my continued issues with the structure and doctrine, in some cases, of the Catholic church and of organized religion in general, we have not been participating in church activities.
But I have not lost my faith in a higher order, in a creator, in the way to live, in God.
When I sit in my chair with the Celtic music playing softly and I read these Advent books, I feel a soft warmth flow over me and a very large hole inside me beginning to fill. And I know I am finding my way back home.
“We are stardust, we are golden—and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”
Joni Mitchell quoted in Advent Christmas 2000 by Mark Link