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Dec 15, 2015 | Kevin Thompson

Churches Prepare for Advent in Variety of Ways

The season of Advent is a beautiful time in the Episcopal Church, a period of spiritual preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ to earth. Each church has its own particular way of participating in this season of longing, from community wide Christmas carols to book drives. There’s also the Alternative Gift market that encourages parishioners to think about others around the world as they buy their Christmas gifts.


“One of the things we do at St. David’s, Austin is to make Advent wreaths,” said Laurie Eiserloh. “Families keep the wire base year round and then on the first Sunday of Advent we bring them to church with us.” St. David’s supplies decorative pines branches, berries, and ribbons for families to make wreathes with.


The Eiserloh family Advent wreath.

“In our family, we place the wreath at the end of the table and light the candles at breakfast and dinner time,” said Eiserloh. “When it gets dark so early and the sun comes up so late, our little Advent wreath makes everything seem warm and festive.”


Advent can also be a great time of year to open the church doors to the community. In Brenham, St. Peter’s sponsored a concert of Handel’s “Messiah”, Part 1, sung by the Brenham Choral Society. “This free performance is the church’s gift to the Brenham community,” said Carol Muegge, Ministry and Communication Coordinator at St. Peter’s. Just 50 miles away in downtown Bryan, the city holds a parade every year and afterwards, the people of St. Andrew’s invite everyone to come to the church for Cocoa and Carols.


Good Shepherd, Austin, sponsors a Benevolence Project where they hand out $100 to anyone who wishes to participate so that they can gift it to a person or family in need. Participants are then asked to report back so that the whole parish can benefit from these small acts of kindness. Epiphany Houston holds a book drive for their health outreach program, ECHOS that aims to give a book to each child that visits ECHOS during the Christmas season.


At St. Peter's, Pasadena, the Rev. Pedro N. Lopez offers a retreat and a feast for Our Lady of Guadalupe. Even though there’s not a strong tradition of confession in the Episcopal Church, Lopez offers the rite to those wishing to partake.


"I think it's important to check first where you are spiritually. If we need repentance, it is important to ask for forgiveness, "said Lopez. "Second, read the word of God because it is the best way to prepare for Christmas and then rejoice. I think it is a moment of great joy to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. "


Many people choose to spend the last part of the year reflecting on what Christ has done in their parish. At St. Alban’s, Waco, the Rev. Aaron Zimmerman uses stories and images from books, movies, and music to explore the themes of the season in a series called “Merry Mixed Media.” This three-week series features discussions on Charles Dickens, The Killers and Macaulay Culkin, all over a potluck dinner.


St. Christopher’s, League City takes a casual approach to its Christmas morning service with a Pajama Eucharist. “So people don't have to spend time on their Christmas morning getting ready for church, we ask everyone to come in the best Christmas, festive pajamas and slippers,” said the Rev. Tom Day, rector at St. Christopher’s. “Prizes are given to the funniest, most original, and most festive pajamas.”


At St. John the Divine, Houston, they took a digital approach to the season by starting a virtual advent calendar on Facebook and Instagram. “We are asking our members to like our page and invite their friends,” said Andrea Meier, director of Publications at SJD. “Each day we post a scripture reading picture of the day to the Facebook event as well as to Instagram.”


With a variety of ways to celebrate Advent and Christmas, there’s something for everyone in the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. For a Spanish language article on how EDOT’s Hispanic congregations celebrate Advent and Christmas, click here.