Tuesday, December 24, 2013

I Will Rejoice

Merry Christmas, friends and family. I love this time of year. November gives us an especially poignant opportunity to reflect on those things for which we are grateful, and I realized that this year, I was thankful for Thanksgiving! Early on in our nation's history, we decided to set aside sacred time just to be grateful for our blessings. What a beautiful holiday!

December is the month of Advent, a time of inward reflection and outward looking-forward, a time of rejoicing and expectation. Though Advent is rarely practiced in the U.S., I fell in love with the season while living in England and have decided to adopt it for my own family. Every Sunday this month, I have lit one more candle around the Advent wreath on our kitchen table, symbolizing the Light that is about to come into the world with the birth of the Savior. The Advent program I received in Cambridge one Sunday said, "Christ comes to bring light to a darkened world.  As the candles on the Advent wreath are lit the illumination increases and the darkness is progressively dispelled." Love that. I love how Advent helps keep the focus on Christ throughout the busy Christmas season. 

I also love the combination of scriptures that the Church of England has gathered for its liturgy. You can find them and other Advent liturgical information here, but I think I'll post them for you too, in case anyone is interested :)

First Sunday: The King and his kingdom
1. Zechariah 9.9,10 
Psalm 72.1-8

2. Jeremiah 23.5,6
Psalm 21.1-7

3. Psalm 118.19-29 
Psalm 24

4. Isaiah 9.2,6,7 
Psalm 28.7-10

5. Isaiah 7.10-15 
Psalm 132.10-16

6. Romans 12.1,2; 

Gospel. Matthew 25.1-13 

Second Sunday: The forerunner
1. Exodus 3.1-6 
Psalm 99

2. Isaiah 40.1-11 
Psalm 103.8-17

3. Isaiah 52.7-10 
Psalm 147.1-6

4. Malachi 3.1-5 
Psalm 97

5. Isaiah 61.1-3,11 
Psalm 146

6. Philippians 4.4-7 

Gospel. Luke 1.5-25 

Third Sunday: A vigil for prisoners and those who sit in darkness
1. Isaiah 43.1-7 
Psalm 46.1-4, 11, 12

2. Psalm 107.1-3, 10-16 
Psalm 130

3. Isaiah 61.1-3,11 
Psalm 146

4. Isaiah 42.5-9 
Psalm 43

5. Isaiah 62.1-7, 10-12 or Micah 4.1-5 
Psalm 85.1-7

6. Ephesians 2.11-22 

Gospel. Matthew 25.31

Fourth Sunday: Looking for the light
1. Genesis 1.1-5 
Psalm 136.1-9

2. Psalm 13 
Psalm 43

3. Isaiah 45.2-8 
Psalm 97

4. Isaiah 60.1-5
Psalm 84.8-12

5. Isaiah 9.2,3,6,7 
Psalm 36.5-10

6. 1 Thessalonians 5.1-11,23,34

Gospel. Luke 12.35-40 or John 3.16-21 

One of the things I appreciated as I took on this course of Advent scripture study this year was that Advent is not only about looking forward to Christmas (the day we remember the birth of Jesus Christ), but is also very prominently about looking forward to the second coming of Jesus Christ. We are reminded to reflect on our lives and to repent and come unto Him as we prepare for His coming. This time is a time to prepare to meet God, in a beautiful, sacred, expectant way. We rejoice at His coming. We look forward to it and we better ourselves because of it. I felt the goodness of the Lord throughout this season, and I am grateful for that feeling of peace and joy.

I am grateful for my sweet family and the sweet feeling of safety and love in our home. I am excited to share this time - my favorite time of year - with Madelyn. We have been singing and dancing to wonderful Christmas music all season. I have been delighted to share her first Christmas experiences with her: walking through our neighborhood Christmas tree lot after dark, with the lot's twinkling lights hanging above us and the snow falling softly around us, choosing our first live Christmas tree; hanging ornaments; picking up (and shaking and piling) the gift-wrapped packages as they appeared under the tree; walking around Temple Square with all its lights; tasting gingerbread cookies; going sledding for the first time; attending church choir practice as we prepared for our Christmas program; watching the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Alfie Boe Christmas Concert on DVD. We have had an idyllic month. 

I wish you all the most joyful of holidays and the same peace and love in your homes and families. 

As Alma said, only a few years before the birth of the Savior: 
Now is the time to repent, for the day of salvation draweth nigh;
Yea, and the voice of the Lord, by the mouth of angels, doth declare it unto all nations; yea, doth declare it, that they may have glad tidings of great joy; yea, and he doth sound these glad tidings among all his people, yea, even to them that are scattered abroad upon the face of the earth; wherefore they have come unto us.
And now we only wait to hear the joyful news declared unto us by the mouth of angels, of his coming; for the time cometh, we know not how soon. Would to God that it might be in my day; but let it be sooner or later, in it I will rejoice.
Book of Mormon, Alma 13: 21, 22, 25