About the Episode
Author Rachel Fahrenbach shares the heart behind Dwell: An Advent Study & Liturgy in this episode.
***GET THE DWELL STUDY ✅CLICK HERE 👉https://amzn.to/3uzG5Qj
Sections Read from the Book:
- Why Liturgy
- How to Use this Book
- Candle Setting & Lighting Liturgy
- A Note About Words
- The First Advent
Learn more & preview the study: https://dwelladventstudy.com
Grab the Study
About the Author
RACHEL FAHRENBACH creates novel ways to approach scripture study, literally. By combining her skill for creative writing with her bent for coaching, Rachel utilizes various mediums (such as books, podcasts, and social media) to lead readers through stories to the most important story of all: God’s love for humanity. Originally from Chicago, Rachel now resides in Alabama with her husband and three kiddos.
Click for Transcript
[00:00:00] You’re listening to episode one of the book cast for Dwell, an Advent study in liturgy. This book cast has been designed to give you a different way to engage with the content of the book. Hi, my name is Rachel Fahrenbach. I’m the author of Dwell and your host for these episodes. In today’s episode, we’re going to cover all the important things you need to know before we really dive into the study. So let’s get to it. First, I’m going to read from the introduction of the book. When I started having kids, I suddenly felt the need to re evaluate every family holiday tradition passed down to my husband and I, as most parents are prone to do, I suppose, when faced with the responsibility of shepherding the little soul entrusted to their care.
I enjoyed many of the fun things we did each year. I mean, you just can’t beat cutting down your own Christmas tree. But I also wondered if there was a way to bring a little bit more to the season of celebration. I’d [00:01:00] like to say I was diligent in exploring this question, but I pretty much put it on the back burner until I was surprised by the season’s cyclical return.
In my scramble to get ready for the holidays, I did just a minor aspect, but kept the majority of what we were doing. This pattern repeated year after year, that is, until we started practicing Sabbath. We implemented this weekly practice, not out of legalism, but from an understanding that there was a lot of wisdom in doing so.
And if I’m being honest, I was so burned out by the busyness of my life, that if we didn’t do something drastic, and quickly. I felt like I would give in to the breakdown on the edge of which I was teetering. In trying to determine what our Sabbath practice would look like each week, I learned about the idea of a Shabbat meal, a time of gathering as family and friends to celebrate God’s faithful provision to feast and [00:02:00] to rest.
There is a liturgical aspect to this meal. Candles are lit, blessings are uttered, songs of praise are sung, and specific food items, challah bread and wine, always grace the table. It is, as Jefferson Besky explains in his book, “To Hell with the Hustle,” the joy, the excitement, and the specialness of Christmas every week without the pressure of perfection our typical holiday season demands. We were optimistic that gathering for a Shabbat meal and resting each week would be good for us. I wasn’t expecting, however, how God would use this practice to shift my mindset about my identity, my purpose, and my belonging. Pausing to rest each week with God taught me that he had intentionally designed me to dwell with him, and that dwelling together, that was to inform who I was and what I did.
Suddenly, this concept of Immanuel [00:03:00] expanded beyond the confines of Christmas into my everyday. And when the next holiday season rolled around, my everyday understanding of Immanuel deepened my understanding of its relationship to Christmas. With this new perspective, I set out to incorporate the Sabbath posture of reflection, rest, and rejoicing into the holiday season.
This book, Dwell, an Advent Study in Liturgy, and its companion guide for groups, Dwell, Advent Celebration Guide and Liturgy, are my attempts to accomplish this goal. As you approach this Advent season, I would like to encourage you to do so in light of this beautiful truth. The God who dwelled with Adam and Eve.
The God who dwelled with Abraham, Moses, and David, the God who dwelled with the 12 and many other disciples, the God who dwelled with the early church. That same God desires to dwell with you. He desires to do more than just [00:04:00] spend time with you. He desires to live intimately with you day in and day out.
He desires to partner with you in stewarding this life. He has given you, you are wanted and loved, redeemed and given purpose. You are not a mistake, you are not forgotten. Jesus came as the Messiah to make that known to you. He is coming again, once more, to make all things right. Come Lord Jesus.
Why liturgy? If you grew up in a Christian community that looked suspiciously on liturgical traditions as rote and empty, you may be skeptical about an Advent study that includes a liturgical component. I get this because I grew up in that type of church environment. It wasn’t until I went away to college and experienced taking communion every single Sunday night during the campus chapel worship that I began to see the [00:05:00] beauty in repeated acts of worship.
Liturgy is simply a prescribed set of repeated acts, prayers, and ceremonies that guide communal worship. It is a structured framework for believers to collectively worship and reflect together. Even if you attend a non denominational church, that worship service has a liturgical structure to it. But more importantly, liturgy serves as both a way to express and shape the beliefs of the community of faith.
This is why I strongly encourage you to gather weekly during this Advent season with family and or friends to have celebration dinners that include this element of collective reflection and rejoicing. I understand, however, that life can be extremely busy during the holiday season and committing to a weekly dinner to celebrate can be difficult.
For those who only have the capacity for individual study, I wanted to make sure you still benefited from the repeated act of lighting the candles each [00:06:00] week, which is why this study contains a liturgical component for you as an individual to complete. I encourage you to still light the candles and read the accompanying scripture out loud, even though it may feel awkward to do so by yourself.
There is something impactful about tangible acts that reflect spiritual truths, especially when they engage our senses.
My hope is that as you go through this individual version this year, you’ll become excited about incorporating the celebration dinners into your observation of the Advent season next year. Whether you choose to complete this as an individual or you choose to include celebration dinners, my prayer for you is that as you move through this study in liturgy, your faith will grow, your sense of identity and purpose as an image bearer will strengthen, and your understanding of how you individually and collectively belong to God will deepen.
I also pray that the study acts a for further study. We could only cover so [00:07:00] much in this short book. The scriptures are so rich with imagery, connections, significance, and impact. I struggle to decide what to include and what to set aside for another time. Please do not view this as a stop point for about God dwelling with creation, but rather make notes as you go along to circle back to later, going deeper with your God.
Finally, enjoy the study. I know the word study in liturgy can feel heavy and task driven, but they are simply tools we are using to consider the why behind the Advent celebration. When we better understand Why we are celebrating the rejoicing flows naturally. Now let’s talk about how to use this book. I structured this book to be completed by an individual each day during the Advent season, which typically starts the four Sundays before Christmas.
Each week will begin with a candle lighting liturgy on Advent [00:08:00] Sunday. During each of the remaining days of that week, you will dwell with scripture, a scriptural truth, or insightful themes regarding the advent of Christ. The weekly structure is as follows. This study lasts for five full weeks and is meant to be started on the first Sunday of Advent.
You will dwell on the advent of Christ each of the days of the week leading up to Christmas and in the week to follow. Ending on the sixth Sunday, which will land somewhere around the day of epiphany. Each week has a themed focus. Week one, God dwells with us in the garden. Week two, God dwells with us in the desert. Week three, God dwells with us in Jerusalem. Week four, God dwells with us in the Messiah. Week five, God dwells with us in us. And week six, God dwells with us in the new creation.
The Advent Sunday sections within this book are designed for individual liturgy. As I mentioned before, my heart is for individuals to study on their [00:09:00] own during the week and then gather together with others on Advent Sunday to light the candles, eat together, reflect on scriptural truth, maybe even share insights from their personal study, and to rejoice over God’s goodness and faithfulness.
If you’ll be gathering with others on Advent Sunday, you’ll want to use the companion guide. If your Sabbaths practice lands on another day of the week other than Sunday, the candle lighting liturgy within the advent Sunday sections of each week can be easily adjusted to that day. You’ll need to start during the week before the traditional advent start of that year to make it work.
For example, at the time of this book’s release, it is 2023. This year, Advent starts on December 3rd. But, my family gathers for Shabbat meal on Friday nights, not Sundays. So, I could complete the sections in this book marked Advent Sundays on Fridays, starting December 1st, the Friday before Advent traditionally begins.
If your [00:10:00] experience of the holidays in past years has been one of a whirlwind, I would like to invite you to consider actually scheduling time on your calendar each day for this study and for the candle lighting liturgy or the celebration dinners if you do them. Don’t treat it like a to do. Treat it like an event to show up to ready and excited
All right, let’s take a moment to talk about the daily structure.
If the idea of needing to take time out of your busy schedule during the season of the holidays. Let me assure you, I am a busy mom myself. And so I specifically designed these days to be completed in about 30 minutes. However, how long each day takes you to complete that day’s tasks will depend on how quickly you move through the content.
I have also intentionally varied the type of content you’ll engage with each day to keep things interesting. Well, I hate to admit it, and even though I value structure and repetition, my creative [00:11:00] brain can get bored easily, with the same thing day in and day out. If you too struggle with this, know that I see you, and I tried to craft this study in a way to help with that challenge.
So the daily structure is as follows. On Advent Sunday, which is the beginning of the week. You will dwell with God and during that time will light candles and spend time reflecting and rejoicing. After that days one, two, and four, you’ll dwell on scripture. You’ll read and meditate on God’s word.
Day three, you’ll dwell on a truth and during that time you’ll read a fictionalized short story retelling of a biblical narrative. Day five, you’ll dwell on the theme, you’ll further dig into the overarching theme for the week. And day six, you’re going to dwell on a question. You’re going to contemplate how that week’s theme impacts your personal life.
Now you will want to systematically complete each day as they do build on each other, but some days will require more time than [00:12:00] others, and you may need to jump around to accommodate your schedule. This is okay, you can do that if you need to. Because each day varies, I created an overview page at the beginning of each week’s section.
This serves as a table of contents and a guide for the week.
Preparation. I try to keep things as simple for you as possible to incorporate this study in liturgy into your Advent observation. Before the start of the Advent season, you will to do a few things to prep. First, you’re going to need to identify the first Sunday of Advent for the current year. This will be the start date of your study.
Number two, you’re going to need to gather and assemble your candle setting. More about that in a minute. Number three, you’re going to need to gather or make the ornaments or label if you’re using, and four, you’re going to need to select a notebook to use for the journaling prompts on day six.
You can also use it to make observations, take notes, mark down things you wish [00:13:00] to study further, and journal out prayers. If you are including the weekly celebration dinners, you will need to give yourself some time to prepare for those dinners. I have found Thursdays to be the best day to assess and prep.
The Celebration Guide has all the information you need to prepare and implement these dinners. Alright, now let’s talk about the candle setting and the lighting liturgy. How is that going to work? Now, the Advent season has been traditionally marked by the church with a series of candle lightings on the four Sundays before Christmas Day.
At the beginning of each week of the study, you will do the same. You might be wondering why light candles at all? Why not do something else? This candle lighting practice reminds us of a few things. One, the creation story. Darkness covered the deep and God said, let there be light. The story of Jesus.
Jesus is the light of the world. And a literal light, the Bethlehem star, shone over his [00:14:00] birthplace. The purpose of the church. We are to be a light to the world. And the renewal of creation. God’s reigning presence will be our source of light in the new creation. There isn’t anything particularly special or sacred about candles, but when lit, they create an environment that welcomes the special and the sacred.
We use them on birthday cakes, to elevate anniversary dinners or even to release a calming scent into the room. In the writing community, many authors use the lighting of candles to signal that it is time to start creating.
For the advent season, candles help us to mark this time as a special anniversary and when used In a liturgical practice, it reminds us of significant and important biblical truths.
Sometime before the first Sunday of Advent, or your just to start date, you will need to assemble your candle setting. Now, you’re going to need [00:15:00] seven white candles. One should be a bit taller than the others. Evergreen branches. A tray for the candles and a lighter or matches. Now, if you’re watching this on YouTube, you can see over my shoulder this is my advent candle setting.
So you see, I have a tall candle in the middle. I have six candles, three on either side of that taller candle. I have my evergreen branches and it sits in a tray. For Advent though, you may have seen traditionally the use of an evergreen wreath, this representing God’s eternal nature, three purple candles representing royalty, one pink candle representing joy, and a white candle in the center to represent Christ. The wreath may have included berries, representing Christ’s blood, or pine cones representing Christ’s resurrection. However, for this study, we will set up the candles differently and add a few more. I know this might be odd for you if you have grown up with the traditional Advent wreath in your home or church, but I hope you’ll allow for the adjustments [00:16:00] and as you move through the study, you’ll see why I made them.
Instead of setting our candles within a wreath, we will line them up in a row. We will still include evergreen branches, but we will weave them in and out of the candles.
This signifies that the story of creation has a specific beginning and was meant to dwell in God’s presence eternally. But sinful disobedience broke the original design, setting creation into a linear trajectory towards redemption. Creation’s story has moved forward in time, first towards the advent of Christ in Bethlehem. And now towards the second coming of Christ that will make all things new. Instead of four candles, we’ll use seven all white with one being slightly taller. This will be our Christ candle. I personally prefer pillar candles just because they’re more sturdy, but you can use whatever you wish.
We will situate the Christ candle in the middle with three of the smaller [00:17:00] candles to the left and right of it. They are all white to remind us of God’s enduring merciful character of forgiveness towards us. Each of the six candles sit on a tray.
You can use whatever you want to represent the heaven meets earth spaces. You might even call them temples where God has dwelled with humanity.
Okay, let’s take a minute and talk a little bit about the candle lighting liturgy. Now, if you’re familiar with the Advent wreath, you may notice throughout the study that I have incorporated the traditional names for the candles, but have expanded on their symbolism in light of the bigger theme of God dwelling with humanity that we’re exploring this Advent season.
So in week one, we’re going to explore how God dwells with humanity in the garden. The candle for that week is the hope candle or sometimes it’s called the prophecy candle. And the expanded theme that we’re going to dig into is this idea of promised hope. For week two, we’re going to look at how God dwells with us in the tabernacle.
The candle is the candle of peace or the [00:18:00] Bethlehem candle. And the expanded theme is redeemed peace. Week three, God dwells with us in Jerusalem. The candle label is joy or the shepherd candle. And the expanded theme is deeply rooted joy. Week four, God dwells with us in the Messiah. The candle is the love or angel candle and the expanded theme is sacrificial love.
Week five is not traditionally included in the traditional Advent wreath, but in this study we’re going to explore how God dwells with us in us, the church. The candle is going to be the renewal or the church candle, and the expanded theme is going to be ongoing renewal. Week six. Now, remember, it’s not a full week that week, just the Sunday.
And this is also not in traditionally included, but we’re going to explore how God dwells with us in the new creation. The candle there is the anticipation or celebration candle, and we’re going to look into the expanded theme of the second advent. Additionally, we will light the Christ [00:19:00] candle each Sunday.
Traditionally, you only do it on Christmas Day, but each Sunday we are going to light the candle as we read from John 1, 1 through 3, in addition to lighting the specific candles for that week. This signifies that while he was born as a baby in Bethlehem, Jesus has and always will be God. He is the Alpha and Omega, The beginning and the end, the first and the last.
As the weeks progress, we will continue to light the candles from the previous weeks. This growing light signifies that we are progressively getting closer to the final return of Christ, which will drive out all darkness. Revelations 21. 4. Now we do have an option to include ornaments. My family does this.
You can see we’ve created ornaments for our tree that we use during this liturgy. You can also use labels for your candles. Like I said, this is purely optional, but it’s a fun way to engage with the ideas and the themes. And especially if you’re doing it with your kids at your table, this is another way to really engage [00:20:00] them.
For a candle labels I suggest checking Pinterest for numerous DIY ideas. Amazon or Etsy may have some done for you options as well. Our family uses ornaments and hang them on our Christmas tree as we light the corresponding candles.
You are welcome to use whatever feels significant to you, but here’s what we have used for reference. Weeks one through four, ornaments with the words hope, peace, joy, and love. Christmas day, an ornament that portrays the nativity scene. Week five, a church ornament that represents the renewal that happens in and through the lives of believers.
And for week six, an ornament with the Greek letters Alpha and Omega as a reference to the second advent of Christ. Whatever you choose to do, the main purpose is to bring a visual reminder into your space of the themes we’re exploring during the advent season. Get as creative as you like and have fun with it.
Now, one more thing before we get into the study itself. I want to talk a little bit about the [00:21:00] words that are included in the study. We’re going to be using these words often, and so I just wanted to establish some understanding between us, what these words mean.
Now I did reference a couple different dictionaries, but the definitions I’m giving you are kind of just my paraphrasing of those definitions. So the first word is dwell. It’s a verb and it means to stay in one place for a period of time or to take up residence in a place or to place focus or attention.
The word tabernacle is a noun and it can be used to define a place dedicated to worship, an object used to house the consecrated elements of the Eucharist. It can refer to the sanctuary tent referenced in the Bible or it can mean a shelter, temporary or permanent. Now this is not typically used in modern language.
Tabernacle as an intransative verb, such as tabernacled, tabernacling, is to temporarily to reside, to indwell a physical body. Now, there [00:22:00] is an interesting fact about an intransitive verb. It doesn’t need an object immediately following it.
If there is a word following it, that word won’t answer what or whom, instead it will answer questions like where, when, how, or for how long. Temple is a noun, and it can be defined as a building dedicated to worship or a dedicated space for a specific purpose. And advent, also a noun. It can be defined as a time frame starting the four Sundays prior to Christmas, observed by Christians in remembrance of Christ’s birth.
,Can be referring to the coming of Christ as described in the Gospels, or the second coming of Christ. And it can also mean the arrival of a person, a thing, or a state of being.
Alright, we have covered a lot in this first episode, but I hope that it gives you a better understanding of where we’re going to be going in the following episodes, which I promise will not be as long.
Before we end this [00:23:00] particular episode, I want to read, from the section I titled in the book, The First Advent. It is a reading from Luke 4, verses 16 through 21. And he, meaning Jesus, came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and he stood up to read and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him.
He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written. The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind. To set at liberty, those who are oppressed. To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him and he began to say to them, today, the [00:24:00] scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.
Thank you for joining me as we explored what we need to do to prepare for this study. I’m excited to begin it with you in the next episode.