It was an incredible adaptation away from a "theologically sanitized" and more typical halloween carnival to a rich telling the story of how we could better understand sainthood as biblical people and by way of that understanding re-adopt Halloween -- All Hallow's Eve -- and "take it back" from the over-commercialized gluttonous affair it had become.
We managed a couple of years of doing it here with the help of students from the Episcopal Center @ UGA. I remember when someone's hayride trailer stopped and unloaded 20+ unexpected young guests we were going to run out of our more modest treats. It was worth it. The lessons we taught and learned were invaluable.
Advent presents a similar opportunity to teach and learn an alternative understanding of God at work in the world through a child born in Bethlehem that in many ways begins taking back Christmas from it's own over-commercialization.
Our readings on the Sundays of Advent: prophets forecasting a vision of Israel's return and restoration, Paul, exuberant and glowing as he thanks God for the faith of the Thessalonians, Corinthians, Philippians. And mostly Luke's songs and narrative of those months before Mary gives birth.
They are all preparatory, all about the work of redemption and Judgement that Jesus, the Christ WILL accomplish, about what God WILL do as the early church grows, how God WILL keep his covenant and continue to choose the jewish people to be his blessing of the world.
We do our own preparation by the way we withhold gratification, not yet singing the songs and carols that radios and streaming devices have already made present, at least ambient is one the toughest lessons to learn.
But . . . , I confess. I need help! Whenever we are planning our service of Lessons & Carols I always slip ahead and give into the impulse to sing at least one of those dreamy, pastorally sedative standards. This year we will sing Once in Royal David's City. That's the piece that traditionally begins the Christmas Eve -- no longer Advent -- service from King's College Chapel aired by BBC and NPR Every year!
So please forgive me. I'm still teaching and still learning and I love this hymn!
Once in royal Davids city,
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her Baby,
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ, her little Child.
He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall:
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Saviour holy.
For He is our childhood's pattern;
Day by day, like us, He grew;
He was little, weak, and helpless,
Tears and smiles, like us He knew;
And He cares when we are sad,
And he shares when we are glad.
And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love;
For that Child so dear and gentle,
Is our Lord in heaven above:
And He leads His children on,
To the place where He is gone.