On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. —Isaiah 25:6
Every culture has special holiday foods and this becomes a big part of our experience of the festive season. We immerse ourselves in a sensual celebration of Advent and Christmas. Instead of being overwhelmed by this, let yourself take time to notice and truly appreciate the sights and sounds, aromas and tastes of the season.
For me, music is the first sign of the season. I like to start with the Windham Hill Winter Solstice collections and George Winston’s December. They don’t scream “CHRISTMAS!” but they instantly evoke the sounds of the season, partly because I’ve made them part of my yearly observance. An instrumental rendition of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” or the “Carol of the Bells” begins to seep quietly into my consciousness.
Collections by the St. Louis Jesuits, Marty Haugen, and David Haas bring the Scriptures of the season to life and allow a quiet reflection on the liturgical side of the season. “Advent Lessons and Carols” from the Anglican tradition is another of my staples. For many people, the season isn’t complete without Handel’s “Messiah.” And many people prefer the familiar Christmas carols to put them in the spirit. Often our musical choices take us back to what spoke to us of Christmas in our childhood years or in other formative times.
I also wait for the first taste of eggnog and then the aroma of Christmas cookies baking in the oven. My sister makes special candy for Christmas and I love it when a box of goodies arrives in the mail. I can taste the love that goes into it. There’s no reason these things can’t happen at other times of the year. But connecting them with Advent and Christmas somehow makes them seem special. Like eating seasonally with the local harvest, we appreciate things more when we don’t have them all the time.
When I was a child, one of the first things that happened was the appearance of the box of Christmas books to replace the books I read (or was read to) the rest of the year. Old favorites and a few new ones were very much part of my Christmas tradition and I now have my own collection of Advent and Christmas reading.
TAKE A DEEP BREATH
As you practice your breathing today, reflect on these words from Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.
A SIMPLE GIFT
Make an Advent/Christmas playlist. Music is a big part of most of our experiences of Christmas. The right music can be a perfect background for a quiet appreciation of Advent. Everyone has different taste in music; use what works for you.