This afternoon eleven members of the Collins family (plus one guest) gathered at Ben's parents house for an Advent celebration. Advent is huge in Ben's parent's house, and one of the main rituals is gathering together, eating German Christmas cookies and singing Christmas carols (a LOT of them, especially since every person gets to choose their favorite, and verses are generally not skipped).
It's something I look forward to each year, and it's amazing how I can look back over the past many years (I think I've been attending for at least eight years, maybe more!) and see how circumstances have changed (from being teenagers to college students, to a young married couple, to parents) and how my own experience of Advent has also changed. I remember the year before Zosia was born, Ben and I were both so totally present and contemplative during all of advent, including our gathering at the Collins house. This year, of course, we were as present as we could be while keeping our eyes on a 15 month old who was climbing furniture, clapping, climbing stairs, and snatching Christmas ornaments-- I truly don't know what I would have done without the expert babysitting help of Zosia's two cousins, Caroline and Annelise (12 and 8) who entertained her for the majority of our time there.
Anyway, each year different things jump out at me from either the readings that we do or the Christmas carols that we sing. I think that my favorite Advent carol will always be "O Come O Come Emmanuel," which feels like the perfect invitation for Jesus to enter into our presence. But this year, while singing O Holy Night, I realized that there was a verse that I had never heard before (or heard, but not really understood). Here it is:
Truly He Taught us to love one another;Wow! Talk about a radical message, and one that totally jumps out into your face among a bunch of fa la las. Traditionally I've been a sucker for the radical theology stuff, so I was surprised that I hadn't caught this lyric sooner. Anyway, for now I'm just realizing how much Christianity turns the world upside down and challenges the traditional ways that we relate to one another.
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother,
And in His name all oppression shall cease.