I started to take Advent more seriously when I was at theological college, when Paul Beasley-Murray, the principal, spoke with some energy about the Church's festivals. He also shared his own family's practice of Advent Teas, which is something we've adopted ever since, lighting our own Advent wreath and using a short, simple liturgy, in the context of a meal.
Over the years, Advent has become more significant for me, in itself, and also as the start of a new Church year.
On Sunday, unusually I was at a church where we sang five Advent hymns! Additionally I was given the honour of lighting the first candle. And then, at home in the evening, later than usual, we had an Advent Supper and did the same thing again, but without the hymns.
The frustration with Advent is that for many of our churches it's simply Christmas-come-early, and yet Advent offers something distinct and deep.
I like what Neil Brighton at Distinct Reflections says, 'Advent expresses an important dimension of the Christian life; a life of expectant waiting and a period of hopeful purpose. As those who live after the end of the beginning but before the beginning of the end we should have an attitude towards God that is faith filled and yet hesitant, humble and yet assured.'
There are particular pieces of music that I listen to especially this time of the year, one being, James MacMillan's, Veni, Veni, Emmanuel, a concerto for percussion and orchestra, played on my recording by Evelyn Glennie. It's superb!
And this year I've purchased Salt of the Earth:A Christian Seasons Calendar, which tells the story of the Christian Year through scripture, liturgical colour and artworks. So instead of January, February, March ... it's Advent, Christmas, Epiphany ... In every other respect it looks like a conventional calendar, with the addition of the lectionary for Sundays and some background to the stunning artwork. It's ordered from America, and so proved expensive with postage, but it's beautiful.