My first Advent was in 1965. I was ten years old.
I was introduced to the Episcopal Church via Vacation Bible School at St. Phillip's, Ardmore. My dad had remarried that summer; his wife, Wanda, had been introduced to the Episcopal church through my Aunt Nelle, who had been introduced by her second husband, Jewel, a cradle Episcopalian.
I immediately fell in love with the music. Once dad and Wanda settled down, we sought a church, and soon chose St. John’s, on Brooklyn Avenue in Oklahoma City. St. John’s was high church by the standards of the day, but I felt right at home kneeling, genuflecting, and making the sign of the cross. I somehow intuitively knew that prayer was meant to be a full-body experience.
I had grown up in the Methodist church, which did not observe Advent at that time. All I knew of Christmas was a small tree in the corner with brightly wrapped packages beneath.
My dad bought an Advent calendar, which was hung near the side kitchen door. Being the youngest, I was given the task of opening the small doors each day. The mystery of what lay hidden behind each numbered door made the weeks prior to Christmas something more than a guessing game centered on assorted packages.
I didn’t know the word liturgy then, but this simple discipline of folding open a little paper door and revealing a small picture gave the days a shape and meaning. The anticipation of that revelation became tied to the anticipation for Christmas. One small mystery became a larger mystery.
I don’t remember any of the presents I received that year, nor any of the gifts I gave. But the gift of mystery, mystery given form in a simple calendar, is a gift I have carried for a lifetime.
Written by request, for inclusion in a church booklet