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Worth the wait

If gauged by retailers and radio music, the Christmas season begins the day after Thanksgiving. In liturgical churches, the four weeks leading up to Dec. 25 are indeed a time of preparation, but not the string-the-lights, bake-the-cookies and sho...

Janet Mogck

If gauged by retailers and radio music, the Christmas season begins the day after Thanksgiving.

In liturgical churches, the four weeks leading up to Dec. 25 are indeed a time of preparation, but not the string-the-lights, bake-the-cookies and shop-till-you-drop kind.

Rather Advent - the beginning of the Christian calendar - is a season of waiting.

"Frequently people are impatient with Advent, and want to move on to the more important celebration of Christmas," says the Rev. Kevin Cassidy-Maloney, pastor of Fargo's First Congregational United Church of Christ. "I think part of what Advent can teach in the church is the importance of the 'not yet.'

"Our whole culture, we want things to happen quickly," he says. "In that waiting, we see more clearly what God is saying to us."

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Cassidy-Maloney says it can be challenging to stay focused on the spiritual preparation during Advent. He tries to spend regular time in meditation and contemplative prayer.

"A lot of times there's not much quiet space during Advent," he says. "It's such a noisy time."

Many churches have midweek Advent services. Some local churches are taking part in a prayer vigil for peace during Tuesdays in Lent.

At Trinity Lutheran Church in Moorhead, parishioners are being encouraged to put together an Advent wreath at home, says the Rev. Steve Wold, senior pastor.

Advent wreaths typically include three purple candles and one pink candle, for the four Sundays of Advent. Each week, one more candle is lit.

"We just encourage people to light those candles and to read Scripture that have to do with the candles and pray together," Wold says.

Trinity parishioners are also being encouraged to read the Gospel of Luke. "Read all the Advent Christmas stories all over again and just enjoy the great miracle that this is," Wold says.

Sister Andrea Arendt, director of the Presentation Prayer Center in Fargo, compares Advent to looking forward to someone coming to visit.

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She suggests simplifying and preparing for Christmas more carefully.

"Don't try to do it all," she says. "Do one thing less, or one thing more that betters our lives."

Instead of running around shopping for the newest and best gizmo, create gifts or give to a favorite charity, she says.

Rather than decorating with expensive garland, create a paper chain with a child. On each strip of construction paper, write or draw a good deed that shows how they have been waiting for Jesus' arrival.

And, Arendt says, let the Christmas season extend beyond that day. Don't throw the tree out on the curb Dec. 26.

"There's time (to celebrate) afterwards," Arendt says. "Take a deep breath ... Now it's Christmas."

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5525

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"Our whole culture, we want things to happen quickly," he says. "In that waiting, we see more clearly what God is saying to us."

Cassidy-Maloney says it can be challenging to stay focused on the spiritual preparation during Advent. He tries to spend regular time in meditation and contemplative prayer.

"A lot of times there's not much quiet space during Advent," he says. "It's such a noisy time."

Many churches have midweek Advent services. Some local churches are taking part in a prayer vigil for peace during Tuesdays in Lent.

At Trinity Lutheran Church in Moorhead, parishioners are being encouraged to put together an Advent wreath at home, says the Rev. Steve Wold, senior pastor.

Advent wreaths typically include three purple candles and one pink candle, for the four Sundays of Advent. Each week, one more candle is lit.

"We just encourage people to light those candles and to read Scripture that have to do with the candles and pray together," Wold says.

Trinity parishioners are also being encouraged to read the Gospel of Luke. "Read all the Advent Christmas stories all over again and just enjoy the great miracle that this is," Wold says.

Sister Andrea Arendt, director of the Presentation Prayer Center in Fargo, compares Advent to looking forward to someone coming to visit.

She suggests simplifying and preparing for Christmas more carefully.

"Don't try to do it all," she says. "Do one thing less, or one thing more that betters our lives."

Instead of running around shopping for the newest and best gizmo, create gifts or give to a favorite charity, she says.

Rather than decorating with expensive garland, create a paper chain with a child. On each strip of construction paper, write or draw a good deed that shows how they have been waiting for Jesus' arrival.

And, Arendt says, let the Christmas season extend beyond that day. Don't throw the tree out on the curb Dec. 26.

"There's time (to celebrate) afterwards," Arendt says. "Take a deep breath ... Now it's Christmas."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5525

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