Please see an updated version of this post here.
For each day, from now until Epiphany, I’ve thought of one thing I can do to practice joy and gratitude, and to give love, putting it on a calendar that draws on some older Advent and Christmas traditions.
In the 6th century, the Celtic Christians celebrated Advent during the 40 days before Christmas, as a mirror to the period of Lent before Easter. In this age of blurring of holy-days and consumerism, I like the idea of starting Advent earlier, so that Thanksgiving is included, but also there can be more intentional preparation for Christ’s coming.
Another tradition from around the 6th century (and probably earlier) was the “O Antiphons.” Most people would recognize a version of these antiphons as the verses of the Advent carol O Come, O Come Emmanuel. They are still prayed in many churches, as they have been for more than 1500 years, from December 17 to December 23. Each of the antiphons refer to a name of Christ, most from the Book of Isaiah, and offer a jumping off point for reflection.
Finally, Christmas seems to end abruptly on December 26th in our consumer celebration. Another lost tradition is the Twelve Days from Christmas to Epiphany. Epiphany means “appearance” or “manifestation” and remembers the Magi and shepherds visiting Jesus, and Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, the public revelation that he is God’s Son. The period from December 25 to January 6th seems an ideal time for reflecting on the Light that has come into the world with the birth of Christ.
Pulling these three traditions together, I’ve created a calendar of ideas for living each day intentionally and joyfully. Here is a PDF version.
The ability to give and experience love and joy doesn’t just happen, it needs to be stretched and strengthened. And over time, the capacity to love and to joy increases.
Let the Holy Spirit lead!