I remember it vividly, although it happened over 20 years ago…
It was November, and I was with my small group. We got into a discussion about how we were already overwhelmed with thoughts of preparation for Christmas. We knew it wasn’t spiritually or emotionally healthy for us to be bogged down by all the pressures and demands put upon us this time of year. Already, it had ceased to be about the birth of Christ, but rather running around as fast as we could, checking off our shopping and to-do lists, before that December 25th deadline. Then, whew…it would be over and we’d all need a vacation. Sure, there would be the usual Christmas Eve midnight service that would remind us of His birth, but with brains on overload, emotions high, and last minute things to do, would our hearts be touched with the message of Christ? For me, I didn’t think so. The service would just be one more “to do” on my list.
That’s when we started brainstorming ways to make sure that “Christ” was put back into Christmas for our group.
One of my friends is a Jewish Believer, and we started implementing a few Hanukkah practices. We used an Advent Wreath. We used special studies for our weekly meetings. Basically we hobbled together something that, little did we know, the Church had already taken care of for us. We were trying to re-invent the wheel.
After I met my future husband, Demetrius…by his very Greek name you can probably guess that he is an Orthodox Christian…I was introduced to the Church that, over a thousand years ago, knew that we needed preparation for this glorious feast day, and gave us a framework. A prescription of sorts. It became Church tradition. But what happened? Well, somehow tradition got a bad rap, and it fell by the wayside for (what has been estimated) as over 30,000 Christian denominations that came after the Great Schism of 1054.
So why is history important?
Because early Church tradition is as important today as it was back then. It keeps us from wandering into muddy waters, like we are about to embark in now. Isn’t it amazing that the Holy Spirit led our church fathers to create frameworks for us that, centuries later, would be more important than ever? How did He know? Well, of course He knew.
When I started observing the Nativity Fast, or Advent as it is known in the West, my Christmas’s changed dramatically. But I’m not going to say it was easy. Fasting from meat and dairy for almost 6 weeks? Staying focused on my Faith and saying no to secular demands? Increasing my prayer time, and looking for charitable opportunities to give my time and resources to? I truly felt like a fish going upstream, and yes, sometimes I threw in the towel. I needed, and still need 20 years later, as much support as I can get at my parish and at home. And that’s why I created My Beautiful Advent.
My Beautiful Advent is a ministry.
It isn’t another commercialization of Christmas. It isn’t a commercialization of a Church tradition. It’s an international community of like-minded people who want to stay the course and glorify God in the days leading up to His birth. It’s the opposite of the schisms that have happened over the last 1000 years. It brings all of us who are serious about the honoring the birth of Christ together again.
There is a small fee due to the expenses of putting on a program such as this, and each year I pray that my expenses will at least be covered. I won’t go into everything we provide, I’ll let you visit the website. I will say, however, that the intent is to give you a place to go in between church services that will support your efforts and increase your desire to stay the course. It has all the tools to make this Nativity Season not only Christian again, but healthy, because after all, that’s what we do at Holistic Christian Life.
To find out what is in store for you this season, just go to My Beautiful Advent. I hope to see you with us this year!