Advent was not a part of my Baptist upbringing. But growing expectation was certainly present in the annual Christmas journey.
Both the church and popular culture provided mile markers to be anticipated and passed on the way to Christmas Day.
The hanging of the greens was unceremoniously called decorating the church — and carried out by a committee apart from worship. And our countdown to Christmas did not involve lighting purple and pink candles.
However, many other markers would indicate that we were indeed headed toward Bethlehem.
Advent traditions, that now benefit my journey to the manger, are as familiar to my daughters as watching the bulbs on a jigsawed plywood tree light up for each $100 given to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering was to me.
A wide variety of signs assured us that the celebration of the birth of Christ was approaching. The Christmas pageant (with a heavy use of children in bathrobes) and the choir’s annual Christmas cantata (with the pastor serving as narrator and no tickets required for admission) had to come and go.
At home, Mom’s thumbprint cookies, fruitcake and nuts-and-bolts (modernists call them Chex mix) paved the way. And we had to scout out a cedar tree with at least one good side to decorate.
Of course, watching the once-a-year televised showings of “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “Frosty the Snowman” was not optional.
Then there were those Christmas specials featuring singers like Andy Williams, Perry Como and Bing Crosby — where dysfunctional families were pulled together in a California studio in August, dressed in sweaters and scarves, and filmed singing Christmas songs as fake snow fell on their coiffured heads.
Technology — with massive channel choices and various recording devices — has removed that one element of building anticipation.
Yet all good trips require three things: growing anticipation, mile markers — individualized by faith, families and cultures — that assure us we are moving in right direction, and fellow travelers whose company we value and enjoy. May God grant all three this season.