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Nov 28, 2017 | Matthew Seddon

St. John’s, Austin Celebrates Advent with some Latin Flavor

 

I grew up in an Episcopal church that was “puro-güero.” It was in Tennessee. No one spoke Spanish. No one had any idea what Advent and Christmas was like in other parts of the world or in other cultures.

When I think back on what Advent was like when I was a kid, I mostly remember two things – the Advent calendar and the Advent wreath. Every year my family would buy an Advent calendar and my brother and I would fight over who would get to open the little window each day.

We also had an Advent wreath on our dinner table. I loved lighting the candles on each Sunday of Advent – first two purple candles, then the pink, then the last purple candle. My mother told me the pink candle was in honor of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Now I know that isn’t exactly true, but I like the idea anyway.

Overall, in my childhood, Advent was a time of waiting. And overall I remember it as a time of solemn waiting. We lit candles in the cold of December and tried to be as quiet and patient as possible as each day brought us a little closer to Christmas.

At St. John’s in Austin, though, we aren’t “puro-güero.” We have two services in English and one in Spanish. People from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Columbia, and Cuba attend our Spanish-language service. I believe that I and many others have learned a new way of experiencing Advent, one filled with joyful anticipation.

The two main traditions that define Advent for our Spanish speakers are the Fiesta de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe on December 12 and a celebration of a night of Las Posadas. To celebrate Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe we always have an abundance of music and we have also had matachines dancing before, during, and after our worship. The sounds of their drums and bells echo around our buildings and thunder inside the church. It is difficult to not be swept up in the excitement, mystery, and joy of the dance.

At St. John’s, we celebrate one night of Las Posadas at the church itself. We are joined by our brothers and sisters from San Francisco de Asis. We begin at our parish hall. The hall has four entrances, so we move from door to door, singing one verse at a time of the song. Finally we go to the church where Mary and Joseph are let in.

Then we eat pozole and demolish piñatas the rest of the night.

Las Posadas brings excitement and joy into Advent. Along with la Fiesta de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, we remember that Christ was born into a family – with a real mother and a father who were poor in money, struggling to survive, but rich in God’s blessings. These fiestas remind us güeros that Advent is a time of waiting, yes, but we can wait with joy because we know that at the end, God has come to be with us – to live with us, to laugh with us, to cry with us, and to give us abundant blessings.

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