I think it’s interesting that my first temple preparation class was also the first Sunday of Advent. While I no longer align myself with the Catholic Church, there are still some traditions I long for. I accept that the Mormon church does not celebrate Advent the way I was taught, but this time of the year tends to make me feel a little bit softer. A little bit more willing.
Growing up, Advent was the time of the year where I could feel fully connected to Jesus Christ. Most of the year I didn’t “get it,” but during Advent, I had four full weeks devoted to preparing for the birth of Christ. I loved lighting the candles on our Advent wreath with my mom and sister. Mom always did an amazing job making sure we understood what these candles meant and why Advent was important.
My sister and I also got our very own Advent calendars. Mom had to remind us every day that the calendar was to help us remember what it felt like to anticipate the birth of the Savior and not to anticipate the presents under the tree. She reminded us that we couldn’t just peel through our calendar and eat all of the chocolate in one day. She asked us to think about how we felt waiting and wanting the next chocolate … that it felt even better knowing a King would be born when the last chocolate was devoured.
(I wonder if I would have been baptized sooner if the Elders bribed me with chocolate. Ha! Just kidding.)
Anyway, Advent. It feels good. Sometimes I need some direction and focus and strict guidelines. For me, Advent and Lent are liturgical seasons that satisfy this craving for structure. Its as if the religious calendar is saying, “Okay, LadyMo. We’re going to forget about everything and just focus on this.” For just a few weeks of the year, I am able to free my mind from religious clutter and realize that this is what’s important. This, of course, being the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.
This Sunday, the Elders and I went to “Fun church.” Elder Robinson calls it Fun Church because they clap and sing songs and dance and are generally more jubilant in their worship. For me, I actually prefer LDS hymns, but that’s besides the point. I love going to Saint Andrew’s because the sermons appeal to my intellectual approach to religion. I always leave knowing just a little bit more about the scriptures and I always leave feeling spiritually fed.
This week, the congregation celebrated the first week of Advent. The sermon was a lesson on Mark 13: 24-37. He talked about how these verses are sometimes used to understand end of the world prophesies, but his understanding of their value is in how these words talk about Advent. Waiting, anticipating, keeping watch, praying.
The minister spoke about how the Spirit of Christ is among us now and here and always. When we read scriptures about “ends,” it’s important to realize that from the moment of baptism or conversion, we are ending one life to start another. We are ending a life so that we can start a life eternal to be born in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. He tied this into the idea of waiting and anticipating. In our mortal life, we are waiting to be reunited with our Heavenly Father and anticipating our eternal life. The minister said that this life eternal that we are waiting for is now. In this season of Advent, as we wait for the birth of Jesus Christ, we can find comfort in the knowledge that He is here among us now.
After a morning of church hopping with the Elders, we settled into sacrament meeting. It’s cozy there. Today was also my first temple prep class with Sister McKendrick. Marie is joining me and I’m grateful for her companionship. This is new territory for me and I need someone strong to help me out (thank you, Marie). Our lesson was focused on one question: Why is it important for us to go to the temple to learn about the Plan of Salvation? We learned that the temple teaches us using symbols… but why?
For the entire lesson, I had just one very strong feeling about why our Heavenly Father needs us to learn about the Plan of Salvation: He needs us to know what was at stake. For me, it was the difference between knowing that the Atonement was necessary for us to return to our Heavenly Father, and what it cost. I realized that it was the difference between knowing that Heavenly Father love us, and understanding how much. Do these italics make sense? They do in my head.
Reflecting on the lesson, I thought about why the temple is chock full of symbols. Natalie and I discussed Moses 1: 1-5. The first time I read it a few months ago, I was overwhelmed with the understanding that I have no freaking idea the grandeur of the glory of God. Not even a little bit. These all-consuming, warm, enveloping feelings I get when I feel the Spirit isn’t even a blip on the radar of God’s awesomeness. Doesn’t. Even. Compare.
So, dear readers, what did I learn in my first week of temple prep? A few things. First, I know absolutely nothing (You hear that, Marie?). Second, it brought Advent to my Mormon experience. Preparing for the temple and being actively engaged in Advent has a singular focus: Jesus Christ atoned for our sins and I don’t have any idea what that cost.
And thus begins the LadyMo Advent edition 🙂
So much love,