Only 3 Days 'til Advent! [Advent Daybook explained]

Advent’s the poetry. Advent’s the strange deeds that led up to the Great Deed. Advent is the power of the mystery that from the beginning stretches through the immortality of Elijah straight out into time, into Transfiguration, into Easter. Advent is all these things

Ultimately, Advent is the grand narrative. It’s the one that makes us Christian. It’s the one that ties it all together. This is what we wait for. This is what comes. Amen.
— Phyllis Tickle
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It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and I’m not even talking about Christmas yet.

Advent is a season of invitation for the feast that is coming. Practicing Advent for the past decade has formed me spiritually, emotionally, and relationally in ways that are hard to quantify. It’s a little bit of growth year after year that adds up to a quieter soul and a sturdier hope. Each year, the prophets, psalm singers, and gospel writers invite me to see with a clearer lens a bit more of the mystery of God’s miraculous arrival. The same mystery shapes our entire lives, the waiting for Christ’s next and final arrival. The arrival that we expect is the one that will never end with another good-bye. Oh, mysterious hope!

Every year, I sort of hope their words will be cozier. Why must there be so much talk about God’s justice wiping out man’s evil? Why so many flaming arrows and toppling earth?

The reality of arrival is not a cozy scene, but a cosmic, unstoppable disruption of the kingdom of men by the reigning God and His Son, the Christ. Advent is the invitation to walk the pathway of this eternal kingdom. The reign of Christ that’s already here, but not yet fully arrived shines the light for us as we walk. We live in this stretched out parentheses and Advent kindly welcomes our weary souls to contemplate the visible reality of our lives and world in contrast to the invisible reality of the Christ who came, is with us now, and will most assuredly come again.

In the spirit of Advent’s invitation, I welcome you to walk through the days - one by one - quietly, slowly, contemplatively. If this all sounds impractically holy, I assure you the best sorts of contemplation is what happens when we carry a quiet heart through all the noisy celebration or the sorrowful absences of December.

How to enjoy Advent Daybook posts: Look, Listen, Read, Pray, & Do

Each day of Advent (December 2 - 24) I’ll share a devotional post that includes a work of art, a song, daily Scripture passages, a short prayer, and a simple activity to help you practice the waiting days of Advent.

Look

Some might call this devotional practice of visual contemplation Visio Divina, or a divine looking. It’s not the actual work of art that is divine, but the Holy Spirit’s invitation to encounter Christ through nonverbal reflection. Throughout the year I collect digital images that I think will enhance the Scriptural themes of Advent. You’ll notice that some of the images evoke traditional Christmas scenes while others seem to have nothing to do with the holiday season at all. The images rotate through classic and contemporary art of all media. Each week I include an image (usually a photograph) from news headlines of the year. My hope is that the Scripture passages for each day orients the visual art selection and sometimes, honestly, that’s a difficult task. The prophets don’t make cozy, holiday scenes a priority in their descriptive language!

Listen

December is prime time for music lovers! One of my earliest concerns about practicing a slow entry into the Christmas feast was that I’d miss all of the beautiful carols and Christmas songs I’d been singing at the top of my lungs since childhood. And, it’s true - I do miss singing along with most of the world (although, I’ve come to appreciate the store soundtracks as a perk of shopping in December!)

What I didn’t know until I’d lived out for a few years is that I’d grow the same attachment for the old hymns and carols of Advent. While I could never get tired of the quintessential Advent hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”, there are so many more to enjoy. Almost as much as the Scripture we soak in each year, it’s the theologically rich, melodically beautiful lyrics of Advent that have formed me. Thankfully, as the Church has become increasingly reacquainted with the historic liturgical calendar, there’s been a lovely renaissance of new and retuned music allowing us to raise our voices every season.

Most of the songs I share each day are contemporary versions of old classics, but each week I try to mix in a choral or traditional arrangement. I try to select quality recordings and include both a Spotify and YouTube version for your convenience. Since the music is chosen to enhance the visual art, my family chooses to play the music as a backdrop for contemplating the image. You might choose to do each separately. I also include a link to lyrics for each song so you can sing along if you’d like!

Read

Oh my goodness, I love the lectionary. I’ve always been intrigued by the interweaving of Old and New Testaments for the beauty of the various literary rhythms as well as the deep satisfaction of experiencing the living, breathing word of God that looks backwards and forwards at the same time. It’s so rich. If you don’t do anything else with the posts I send each day, read the Scripture passages. I include a link for the complete lectionary passages each day and then excerpt the portions that particularly spoke to me as I was preparing the post. I use the English Standard Version most often, but if you click through the link to the Biblegateway page, you can adjust the version to your preference.

From December 2-16, Sunday Scripture readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary (Year C). Daily Scripture readings are taken from the Book of Common Prayer (Year 1) with only one or two of the daily Psalms. The daily passages this year highlight the Advent rockstars Isaiah and Luke. It’s going to be good! Read each passage (or the excerpt provided) slowly and listen for the invitation of God to the world, his people, and you. 

Starting December 17, I’ll be focusing the reading portion of each post on one of the “O Antiphons” (an ancient liturgy that is the root of the beloved “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” hymn). This is new for me, but I’ve been inspired by Malcolm Guite’s sonnets and a prayer service our church holds during this week. I look forward to sharing the beauty here with you, too.

Pray

Each week the prayers are formed around the Sunday collect (prayer said by the congregation in Sunday worship). While you could pray directly from the daily Scripture (especially the Psalms) or the hymn lyrics, I include a guided prayer for each day. Once a week, I invite you to a form of intercessory prayer termed “Prayers of the People” in the Book of Common Prayer. This allows us to set aside at least one day to remember each sphere of our world with specific prayer. Poetry at its essence is a type of prayer, and every Saturday I share a poem as the prayer portion.

Do

The spiritual practice of contemplation, at its best, moves from stillness to thoughtful action. We were made by a Creator to love Him, our neighbors, and ourselves with heart, mind, soul, and strength. I’m delighted to invite you to some simple, daily actions to demonstrate that love outwardly. Some of the activities will feel familiar to the traditional customs of Christmas time, and some will feel new and counterintuitive. It’s all good.

An Advent Community

When I first started this series, I was compelled to create something I’d been looking for and couldn’t find online. While I own and enjoy several printed beautiful devotional books for Advent and Christmas, I was intrigued by the idea of a multi-media, shared experience that can be cultivated online. Since that time, many new and wonderful resources release each year. It’s tempting to dabble in each one, but I encourage you to find what works best for you and to simply, prayerfully walk through each day with intentional companions. I’m honored to be included in your Advent journey.

I’ve also known from the beginning that I wanted this to be a free offering - sort of like my Christmas card to you. The ability to access a world of beauty for free on the internet literally changed my life. I want to be part of that free stream, and since I’m mostly curating the work of other people I encourage you to click through the source links to purchase their art. If you’re appreciating the posts and would like to support my work on the website, I’ve include a PayPal “tip jar” on the blog page and in the bottom of some of the Advent posts - (paypal.me/TamaraHillMurphy) .

This year, I’ll be sharing occasionally via live stream at the blog’s Instagram account. The video expires 24 hours after it airs, but I’ll save them and link within the blog posts. If you’re on Instagram, you can follow me there - a_sacramental_life.

Conversation makes a community so please comment regularly! Let me know how you’re experiencing God’s invitation through the Advent Daybook posts or any other part of your day. I love to hear from you.

A few other resources I’m enjoying this Advent

I’m looking forward to spending the next coming weeks together. If you’d like to receive the daily posts in your email inbox, subscribe with your email below. (You don’t need to do this if you already receive posts via email.)

Blessed Advent to you and yours. Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus!



(You can see Advent Daybook posts from 2017 here.)







Weekend Daybook: I've got plenty to be thankful for edition

Seven days of collecting what I've been up to lately: places, people, books, podcasts, music, links & more for your weekend downtime.

(1) photo from this week

 Thanksgiving Day, 2018

Thanksgiving Day, 2018

Can you even believe these are our people? We weren’t in Austin for Thanksgiving, but a giant part of my heart was there. How can I calculate the value of friends who become family and gather my brood as if they were their own? That’s exactly what our daughter-in-law Rebekah’s parents, Bernie & Jodi, did for our kids. Not only did they feed my children on Thanksgiving but Jodi took some dang good photographs as a bonus!


(2) new blog posts from this week

  1. Glad Thanksgiving (I’m so grateful for you all! You can see all Thanksgiving posts from previous years here.)

  2. Savior King (A post for Christ the King Sunday. You can see all the previous years’ posts for celebrating this final Sunday of Ordinary Time here.)


(3) updates for my internet homes

  1. I’ve added a Tip Jar to my blog page. Would you consider helping to support my work here? Picture the little jar at your favorite coffee shop and that I’m adding a sweet froth to your favorite beverage each time we meet here. Every little bit is appreciated!

  2. A linktree for @a_sacramental_life on Instagram: Finally! Here’s an easier way to specific links through the blog’s Instagram page.

  3. Advent Daybook 2018 subscription: You may have noticed a little pop-up box when you visit the blog. If you don’t receive blog posts via email already, Advent is a great time to start!


(4) photos from my spiritual direction residency in North Carolina

In mid-November I attended my second-to-last residency for my spiritual direction certification. We met at the lovely St. Francis Springs Prayer Center in North Carolina. I only managed to get photos of one of my walks through the woods (which included a prayer labryinth and chapel). My friend Amy got a few of actual people so I’ve borrowed from her one of a few of us on our last morning together.

Only one more residency to go before we graduate. All the normal bittersweet feelings seem to be queuing up for that time. I’m forever grateful for this call that rose up like a road to meet me.

Spiritual Direction is a "one-to-one" ministry of coming alongside others to help them pay attention, become curious, and move toward the ongoing invitations of God to experience freedom, and enjoy life to the fullest as beloved sons and daughters in the Kingdom. The Selah Certificate Program is a two-year, cohort-based, low-residency course that’s preparing me to offer trained spiritual direction vocationally and ministerially among our local church as well as those the Holy Spirit connects with me from around the world. You can find out more or contact me with any questions on my Spiritual Direction page.


(5) photos from our Thanksgiving


(6) links to get ready for Advent

If you've ever considered following the ancient rhythms of the  liturgical calendar, there's no better time to start than at the Church's New Year: Advent. Even if your church follows the civic calendar more prominently than the liturgical, you can follow along with your brothers and sisters in Christ across the globe from the quiet spaces of your own home. You could create -- figuratively or, even, literally -- a family altar. This does not have to be elaborate, time-consuming, or expensive.  Simple tangible acts will impress themselves upon your hearts and minds for a lifetime: a book or two filled with rich images and time-tested writings, mealtime prayers, a candle or two.

  1. Advent home page

  2. How We Prepare For Advent (Join us?)

  3. A Few Simple Ways to Decorate for Advent

  4. Our 10 Favorite Advent Devotional Books (for all ages)

Two links from the Homely Hours that I recommend especially if you have little ones living in your house.

  1. Keeping Advent: Some Daily Practices

  2. Advent Plans

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(7) blog posts from this week in the archives

  1. 2017 - 7 Celebratory Quick Takes (Last year, when we said good-bye to a dear lady, welcomed our kids to Connecticut, visited family for Thanksgiving, and celebrated our anniversary with a professional photo shoot - all within about 10 days time!)

  2. 2015 - Why We Give New Names to Our Kids on Their 21st Birthdays

  3. 2014 - Monotonous Monogamy (In which my grandparents - who celebrated their 72nd wedding anniversary last month! - share some marriage advice.)

  4. 2011 - Our Weekly Mary Poppins Day (One of my best mom ideas ever! Moving by the seat of my pants during that short season of homeschooling a middle & high-schooler.)

  5. 2011 - Happy Advent Eve! (When we were still new at living out the church calendarAll sorts of Advent posts through the years at this link.)

  6. 2009 - I Wanna Marry You All Over Again (We celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary last week! You can read some of my wedding anniversary reflections at this link.)

  7. 2009 - Advent #2 (This post includes one of my all-time favorite poems, that manages to be true for Advent and pretty much any old day of the year.)

Marriage Unrehearsed title card.3.jpg

28 years ago

November 24, 1990

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May your weekend include some time at home and some time with friends that welcome your tears as well as your laughter. Peace...

p.s. This post may contain affiliate links because I'm trying to be a good steward, and when you buy something through one of these links you don't pay more money, but in some magical twist of capitalism we get a little pocket change. Thanks!

Savior King

“Pilate asked him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." John 18:37

   Christ Before Pilate, study by Mihály Munkácsy ( source )

Christ Before Pilate, study by Mihály Munkácsy (source)

The Collect for Christ the King Sunday:

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
— Book of Common Prayer, collect for Christ the King Sunday

(See all Christ the King posts from previous years here.)

Glad Thanksgiving

I thank God every time I’m reminded of our little community here. May your giving thanks this week generate much gladness for you and those you encounter. I’m grateful for you.

Vintage.Glad Thanksgiving.jpg
For the beauty of the earth
For the glory of the skies
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies

Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise

For the beauty of each hour
Of the day and of the night
Hill and vale and tree and flower
Sun and moon and stars of light

Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise

For the joy of human love
Brother, sister, parent, child
Friends on earth and friends above
For all gentle thoughts and mild

Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our hymn of praise

For Thy Church which evermore
Lifteth holy hands above
Offering up on every shore
Her pure sacrifice of love

Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise
— "For the Beauty of the Earth", Folliot Sandford Pierpoint (text) & Conrad Kocher (music)

“For the Beauty of the Earth”, Various Artists on Together in the Harvest

Bandcamp | YouTube


Until the day we feast at one table together, 
God's blessing on you and yours.

(See all Thanksgiving posts from previous years here.)

Weekend Daybook: Thanksgiving & Advent edition

Seven days of collecting what I've been up to lately: places, people, books, podcasts, music, links & more for your weekend downtime.

(1) photo from the month

   I’ve been busy preparing for a  Spiritual Direction  residency and haven’t taken any photos this week! Here’s a photo I took earlier this month during a quiet retreat at my Spiritual Director’s cottage in Virginia. This story never, ever gets old.

I’ve been busy preparing for a Spiritual Direction residency and haven’t taken any photos this week! Here’s a photo I took earlier this month during a quiet retreat at my Spiritual Director’s cottage in Virginia. This story never, ever gets old.


(2) new posts in the Work Stories series

  1. Work Stories 2018 wrap-up! (I’d love to hear your stories, too. I hope you’ve been able to hear the stories, prayers, and songs from each week as a blessing and affirmation that your work matters.)

  2. Nancy Nordenson’s two kinds of work (This is the final guest post for the 2018 Work Stories series, and I’m delighted that Nancy gets to be our final word for this year. No matter where you find yourself on the spectrum of doing the work you’ve always wanted to do or just doing the work you’ve found, may you receive encouragement and hope in her words.)


(3) updates for my internet homes

  1. I’ve added a Tip Jar to my blog page. Would you consider helping to support my work here? Picture the little jar at your favorite coffee shop and that I’m adding a sweet froth to your favorite beverage each time we meet here. Every little bit is appreciated!

  2. A linktree for @a_sacramental_life on Instagram: Finally! Here’s an easier way to specific links through the blog’s Instagram page.

  3. Advent Daybook 2018 subscription: You may have noticed a little pop-up box when you visit the blog. If you don’t receive blog posts via email already, Advent is a great time to start!


(4) links to get ready for Advent

If you've ever considered following the ancient rhythms of the  liturgical calendar, there's no better time to start than at the Church's New Year: Advent. Even if your church follows the civic calendar more prominently than the liturgical, you can follow along with your brothers and sisters in Christ across the globe from the quiet spaces of your own home. You could create -- figuratively or, even, literally -- a family altar. This does not have to be elaborate, time-consuming, or expensive.  Simple tangible acts will impress themselves upon your hearts and minds for a lifetime: a book or two filled with rich images and time-tested writings, mealtime prayers, a candle or two.

  1. Advent home page

  2. How We Prepare For Advent (Join us?)

  3. A Few Simple Ways to Decorate for Advent

  4. Our 10 Favorite Advent Devotional Books (for all ages)


(5) resources to celebrate Thanksgiving

You might enjoy my Pinterest boards: Autumn Holidays & Occasions and Thanksgiving

  1. Thanksgiving Day Prayers & A Family Liturgy of Thanksgiving via Anglican Pastor

  2. For those of us formed by the Lord’s Supper, here’s a way to consider Thanksgiving through a sacramental lens: At the Table via The Work of the People

  3. Host international students for Thanksgiving through Bridges International! For local friends, watch Chris & Kelly Rowley’s invitation here: Thanksgiving Hosting and sign up here: University of Bridgeport Sign-Up

  4. Resources to honor the perspective of American Indians:

    American Indian Perspectives on Thanksgiving via National Museum of the American Indian

    The Thanksgiving Myth via Native Circle

    Erica Littlewolf of Mennonite Central Committee talks with Hannah Heinzekehr of The Mennononite about Thanksgiving myths, the Doctrine of Discovery and ways to engage this holiday

    Deconstructing Myths of the First Thanksgiving via Oyate

  5. Scroll through a collection of my Thanksgiving posts , and don’t miss last year’s Conversation Starters For A Harmonious Family Feast plus two playlists: Thanksgiving & Autumn Worship 2018 !


(6) November photos of loft-living in Bridgeport, CT


(7) blog posts from this week in the archives

  1. 2017 - 5 Things I Learned In October (An "examen" sorts for what I learned the previous month - both the weighty lessons and the daily hilarities. Still dreaming about #3!)

  2. 2015 - This Is Why I Broke A Promise To Myself On Facebook (the first of several times) & When Jesus Said ‘Love Your Neighbors’ Did He Mean Muslims, Too? (I meant this question sincerely!)

  3. 2014 - 5 Favorite Quotations On Writing: Kenyon, L'Engle, King, O'Connor, Berry (I need to read #4 every day.)

  4. 2013 - Why We Send Our Kids To A [Broken] Public School (Chapter 8 in the Parenting Unrehearsed series.)

  5. 2011 - Mostly Grateful (When I was just starting to figure out my life plan had been shot to heck.)

  6. 2011 - Austin, Nice to Meet You: Holiday Weekend Edition (I need to find those boots and reenact this weekend stat.)

  7. 2008 - Confession (Really, my mother was the worst offender.)

5 years ago

When my sisters flew to Austin so we could make soup together in my kitchen.


May your weekend include some time at home and some time with friends that welcome your tears as well as your laughter. Peace...

p.s. This post may contain affiliate links because I'm trying to be a good steward, and when you buy something through one of these links you don't pay more money, but in some magical twist of capitalism we get a little pocket change. Thanks!