Happy New Year!
No, I’m not confused. I’m not talking about the calendar year but the liturgical year. For those that grew up Catholic, Lutheran, or Episcopalian this isn’t a new word. It refers to the seasons of the year for the church. And today is the beginning of a new church year. The first season, which is Advent.
Advent marks the four weeks before Christmas. So even though many of us may greet one another with “Merry Christmas,” it isn’t Christmas yet. The Christmas season is December 25th to January 6th when Epiphany begins. But I digress.
Advent is the time of waiting and preparing for Christmas.
To kick off the season, my congregation we held an Advent Festival. We gathered in the fellowship hall and listened to Advent carols, did crafts, and ate lefsa (The best way to describe it is a Norwegian potato tortilla served with butter and sugar.)
This evening, my husband and I will light the first of four candles on our Advent wreath. We will light an additional candle every week until December 18th.
We’ll also begin decorating our house and start baking special holiday goodies.
Most of my friends will be expecting baked goods from me, especially my Pumpkin Gingerbread. A variation on my grandmother’s recipe, I have significantly cut back on the oil and sugar. I enjoy it with a nice cup of strong tea.
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup molasses
- 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 4 eggs
- ½ cup water
- 15 oz pumpkin puree, 1 can
- 3 tbsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- 3 ½ cups white whole wheat flour
- 2 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp baking powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray lightly with non-stick spray two 9X5 loaf pans.
In a large bowl, combine sugar, molasses, applesauce, and eggs; mix until smooth. Add water and mix until well blended. Stir in pumpkin and spices.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and baking powder. Gradually add to wet ingredients until well incorporated into the mix. Divide batter between prepared pans.
Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick comes out clean, about 1 hour.
Nuts and dried fruit, such as cranberries, can be added.
Every year I meditate on the meaning of Advent. My thoughts are shaped by my mother’s view that Advent and Christmas only hold meaning because of the events of Easter and Pentecost, and my godmother’s lessons that the church year was a journey marked by special days on which we stop reflect, rejoice and remember.
Today, I texted a friend about the Advent Festival, autocorrect kept changing “Advent” to “Adventure.” That got me thinking. Are the two words related? And if Advent is a journey, then isn’t also an adventure? (I know I’m a nerd, and I really do ask myself these types of questions.)
So, to answer the first question: Are the words “Advent” and “Adventure” related to each other? And a quick check of dictionary.com and etymonline.com and the answer is yes. Both Advent and Adventure come from Latin adventurus, “to come to, reach, arrive at.”
How do I make my Advent season an adventure? My usual routine is to do the weekly Advent devotions, gradually set up my Christmas decorations, and bake for days on end. Not too exciting, is it? And it doesn’t do much to nourish my spirit. Scanning the internet for Advent activities, I found a few that may liven things up a bit.
One is a “reverse” Advent Calendar. Instead of opening a little door getting a piece of chocolate as the days count down, items are added to a basket that will be donated at the end of the season. I have a list of items that food banks and shelter need but don’t ask for.
A second is daily devotions on the meaning of Advent. Not just the preparation for the arrival of the infant Jesus, but also for the day he will return.
And finally, just getting out of the house. It is so easy to hibernate when the weather gets cold and not interact with others. I’ve never been comfortable in noisy crowds and will usually only go if one of my “sisters” is going. But my winter isolation feeds the darkness in my heart; I become more anxious and less social. I can choose to take a different path.
I have set my course, let the Advent Adventure begin!
What is your Advent Adventure? Share it in the comments.