Monday, December 03, 2007

Advent Begins

Steve and I have a particularly busy December--as I'm sure many of you do--and in talking last week about all the Christmas events on our schedule, we wondered how we could be sure to keep our focus in the right place. We want to look to our Savior and His Incarnation during this season of anticipation, not get so caught up in the shopping and decorating and baking and parties that we lose sight of why we celebrate.

I'm curious to hear if and how any of you celebrate Advent. Do you have any family traditions that help you look to Jesus in the weeks leading up to Christmas?

In my online search for Advent materials, I found that John Piper (I'm sorry this is becoming an all-Piper, all-the-time blog...bear with me :) has a tradition of writing Advent poems for his church. He explains:

For 25 years one of my joys has been to write and read an advent poem each Sunday of Advent for the people of Bethlehem. The poems aim to speak truth about God and his ways with man, but they are imaginative reconstructions behind figures of the Bible of what may have been, but probably was not. Historically, my aim is not to create anything that could not have been or that in any way contradicts what the Bible says.

I write them because the effort to say things differently helps me see things more deeply and love God more deeply. And I hope they help you in that same way.

This year he writes about Nicodemus; the first poem in the series was published today. I've attempted to write poetry in strict meter and rhyme only enough to know that it's very, very difficult to do well. Piper has a gift for it. I've read several of his poems, and his poetry, nearly always written in iambic tetrameter, is (in my opinion) very, very good. This long narrative poem about Nicodemus whets my appetite for more--both the Nicodemus poems to come, and the extensive archives of past Advent poems available on the website. As with the sermons, listening is even better than reading.

Leave a comment below with any Advent ideas you want to pass along!


Anonymous said...

Speaking of John Piper, have you read Noel Piper's "Treasuring God in Our Traditions"? It's excellent. I don't have any advent ideas, really. We always had spiritually focusing advent calendars, which was always fun for me as a kid. I want to look for one this year to use with the boys next year.

Amy said...

I'm actually in the middle of it right now--and loving it! :) I looked online to order her advent calendar (it's unavailable this year)--that's how I discovered the advent poems.

Anonymous said...

I love John Piper. Write about him every day! :o) I'll enjoy.

Zoanna said...

Are you a sage with Israel’s keys,
And do not know these ABCs?”

Thsi is really, really good poetry So long! Wow! He pulled so much from imagination, so much from study, and then put it into iambic tetrameter. A.MAY.Zing! I started reading it in rhythm and was tickled, then read it like prose and was gobsmacked. Okay, this is a keeper!

As for keeping advent tradition, it seems to be how willing my hubby is to initiate. Or to follow thru w/ my initiaion. If I get out the candles, pull the readings, and gather the children, he'll take it from there, but he isn't big on celebrating anything.

Amy said...

Oh, I'm so glad someone else literary appreciates it! :) I am by no means an expert in poetry criticism--but that's part of what amazed me--that besides the powerful content, the poetry itself seemed to me really, really good. I was trying to explain to Steve last night about enjambment and how Piper uses it so skillfully to avoid the sing-songy-ness that iambic meter can easily have...he just got this glazed-over look like the one I get when he is explaining science-y things to me :)

I love this poem for its spiritual truth and imagination AND for its art!

Anonymous said...

This doesn't have to do with John Piper (though I am looking forward to reading the poems you've mentioned!)

To answer your question... to celebrate Advent, my mom read children's books about the Nativity to us, a different book every night leading up to Christmas day. (She amassed quite a collection of these books during my childhood - there are lots out there!) My sister and I always enjoyed being able to pick out which book we wanted her to read to us, even though they were the same ones year-in, year-out. Actually, my mom and I pulled out the old books and looked through them this year. The covers and the pages brought back such vivid memories - it's been such a blessing to remember those times with my mom!

As for other family traditions that pointed to Christ, I think the above example pretty much does it for my family. I doubt that the "Elf Fairy" - an imaginary fairy (aka-my mom) who left us a candy treat in a little basket each morning leading up to Christmas day - would be deemed a Christian tradition per say. (Though that fairy did provide candy, which was pretty darn good to a nine-year-old.)