I love advent calendars! Growing up, we only had picture ones, chocolate, or sweets were unheard of. My youngest sister (she is 10 years younger) was given a chocolate one each year once she was old enough for her own, and you can imagine how pleased her big sisters were! Now, there is every type of advent calendar you can think of, wine, cheese, jam, just to name a few. They have become yet another part of the great commercializing of our world.
Returning to simpler times, and simpler calendars, I remember how much I loved my advent calendar each year. The arrival of the calendar meant that Christmas was not far away, and school would get a little more relaxed, games and craft projects would creep into the curriculum. The house would be decorated, a tree bought and things would smell, well, Christmassy!
Every day there was the sheer delight in opening each door, a day at a time. What was the picture? What was the part of the Nativity story written for that day?
Growing up in a Roman Catholic home, our Advent calendars always were religious, telling the story of the birth of Jesus from when the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary all the way to His birth on Christmas Eve. However, some of the calendars designed for younger children often would have some toys or musical instruments on some of the days and then I think about reading my pop-up book, The Night Before Christmas, something I did with my mother every Christmas Eve. So much of the season is entrenched in traditions, passed down, or created with each new branch of the family.
I will miss being in church to sing the Advent hymns, but that doesn’t mean I can’t listen to them, sing along at home. One of my favourites is Gabriel’s Message, a Basque carol translated by a priest by the name of Sabine Baring-Gould. The melody is haunting and to me the lyrics tell Mary’s story with drama, (wings of flame!), elegance, and portray the dignity of Mary.
The angel Gabriel from heaven came His wings as drifted snow his eyes as flame "All hail" said he "thou lowly maiden Mary, Most highly favored lady," Gloria! "For know a blessed mother thou shalt be, All generations laud and honor thee, Thy son shall be Emanuel, by seers foretold Most highly favored lady," Gloria! Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head "To me be as it pleaseth God," she said, "My soul shall laud and magnify his holy name." Most highly favored lady. Gloria! Of her, Emanuel, the Christ was born In Bethlehem, all on a Christmas morn and Christian folk throughout the world will ever say: "Most highly favored lady," Gloria!
If you take a moment to search on the magic Interweb you can find the carol, so perhaps make a cup of tea, sit in a comfortable chair and listen, taking a few moments to be still.