I love Advent! I get to work on it in September all the way through December! For me it is such a time of joy. Preparing for the Christ Child and readying ourselves for Him to enter are lives. What do we do to get ready? There are so many options!
A book? A daily reading of scripture? Something more 21st century….. a daily inspiration in our inbox? An online community studying the same passage? Or there is, of course, the classic countdown Advent Calendar.
The wooden or cardboard scene with little windows that you open everyday and receive a little toy or piece of chocolate. Don’t get me wrong, I love someone giving me a piece of chocolate everyday……but is that readying our hearts for the arrival of Jesus?
This year my congregation is participating in a Backwards Advent Calendar. We are counting up to the day of Christmas and giving something (instead of receiving) everyday. At the beginning of Advent, you designate a box or laundry basket where you will place all of your offerings. Then everyday, you place something inside to give to someone in need. It could be clothing, or socks, or food, or linens. Then you say a prayer.
I encourage families to take turns picking an item and then praying. It could be any prayer that is on your heart. I have a few suggestions below. Then on Christmas 1, all of the baskets will be brought to church and we will pray over them as a community before they are given to a local shelter.
Prayers for the Backwards Advent Calendar
Clothing (socks, underwear, gloves, hats)
God, be with those seeking warmth, both physically and spiritually, this winter. May we offer to them our hands in service and friendship. Amen.
Canned fruit or vegetables
Gracious God, thank you for the land and the healthy food it produces. May this food nourish and strengthen those who eat it. Amen.
Protein (canned meat, tuna, peanut butter, beans)
Mighty God, give us strength to do your will. Strengthen us to stand up for ourselves and those who are bullied, oppressed, or marginalized. Amen.
Linens (pillowcases, washcloths, towels, tablecloths)
Lord and giver of all life, help us to value each person, created in your love. In your mercy, guide us to respect and promote the dignity of every human being. Amen.
Grain/Cereal (boxed cereal, oatmeal, pasta)
Almighty God, bless those who work in fields, orchards, and farms. Help us to be good stewards of this beautiful Earth you have created. Amen.
Advent Prayers from the Book of Common Prayer
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (Page 211)
Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (page 211)
Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen. (Page 212)
Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (page 212)