The night is half spent.

Advent display.
Originally uploaded by kebojo.
This year, we have been marking the journey through Advent by lighting candles and opening the daily doors on this calendar. You may recognize the illustrative style; the calendar was designed by Steve Erspamer, whose artwork adorns the Real Live Preacher's blog. We love this calendar not only for its visual beauty and its unusual six-sided city design, but because of the way it forces us to make space for wonder and reflection during our culture's busiest season.

Each evening, we open a flap (sometimes two, if it's a special feast day) with the exclamation, "Lift up your heads, o gates, and be lifted up, o ancient doors, that the King of Glory may come in!" We then read a reflection from the booklet that came with the calendar, which usually focuses on a particular saint of either antiquity or modernity; early on, for instance, we revealed a lovely iconic painting of Rosa Parks standing in front of a bus. This week, we've been reading the "O Antiphons," which guide us through the verses of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." After Christmas, we will celebrate its twelve days, ending with an Epiphany celebration.

These rituals are not a natural part of "the holiday season" as we know it in America. But they are a vital one for our household. They force us to slow down, to consider what we are really celebrating when we finally arrive at Christmas day. Marking the light is necessary in the midst of the darkest time of year. The night is half spent, and we eagerly wait for the dawn.


At 12/23/2005 2:22 PM, Blogger Rae Whitlock said...

Good stuff, Kate. We're trying to be more intentional with how we celebrate the season, as well. Next year (though some might call us Scrooges), we may leave the tree and house undecorated and unlit until Christmas morning . . . leaving it in its "dead" state in anticipation of Christ's arrival.

At 12/24/2005 2:40 AM, Blogger rachel said...

thats the calendar we got my mom this year!!! we bought it at grace cathedral in s.f. - i thought it was a great calendar too... my mom always got us calendars each year before and it was fun to get her one this year...

tonite we finished decorating our tree and listened to lots of christmas music... my favorite, of course, being the otr cd. and we played games... thats the way our family spends time together... earlier this week we played pictionary and tonite it was quiddler.

we also, unfortunately, had a huge fight this morning between my mom and me and my aunt... it sucks when this season also brings out the worst in people... its good to focus on the good stuff so that the bad stuff - stress, family tensions, loneliness, etc - doesn't overtake all of the wonderful reasons that we decorate, buy gifts and spend time together.

thanks for your post!

At 12/27/2005 10:03 AM, Blogger kate said...

Rae, I think we will probably do the same with our tree in the future, as well. There are so many other wonderful ways to build anticipation during Advent, especially when children come into the picture. Think what an awesome tradition lighting the tree on Christmas could become for Zoe!

Rachel, I'm sorry your family was fighting at Christmas... I hope things get resolved soon. But that's the thing about family, like you said. If you have the time (or inclination), go see "The Family Stone"--it's lite and fluffy in some ways, but what a relief to see how most "real" families spend their Christmases on the big screen!


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