‘Come, Lord Jesus’ theme of Calvary’s Advent Festival this year
Growing up, many young children learn the words to the common table prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed, Amen.”
This year, that prayer is the inspiration for the Calvary Lutheran Church Advent Festival. The festival, now in its 54th year, will incorporate the theme “Come, Lord Jesus” in four areas: worship, teachings of the Old and New Testament, parables and prayer.
“Each area will show how Jesus comes to us,” said Millie Buer, a member of the Advent Festival committee at Calvary. “We also want to emphasize the importance of prayer in our lives. Our goal is to give people an idea of how to prepare for Christmas.”The festival will be held Friday and Saturday from 1 to 7 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. at the church, 302 Olena Ave. S.E. It is free and open to the public.
Those attending the Advent Festival will be led by hosts through 18 different rooms, all of which reflect the Advent season. Themes of some of the rooms include creation, the Ten Commandments, John the Baptist, the mustard seed parable and Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. There will also be a prayer garden and a room highlighting the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion.
Throughout the festival, various musicians, including instrumentalists and choirs from the Willmar Senior High School, will be performing traditional Christmas hymns in the church Sanctuary. A family friendly event, the festival will also have a craft room for children to make ornaments and a youth room with interactive activities, including a hide-and-seek game, coloring and roleplaying. Children can also play a game of “find the prayer hands” in each of the 18 rooms of the festival.
“At the last festival, some adults even took part in the game because it was so much fun,” said Clarice Novak, a member of the planning committee. “We really try to appeal to all ages, and we encourage families to bring their kids. We want the younger generation to come and have a fun experience as well.”
At the end of the 18-room tour, people can gather in the fellowship hall for prayer time, socializing and refreshments, including coffee, cookies and traditional Norwegian lefse.
Because it’s such a large event, Calvary only holds its Advent Festival every two years. Planning and coordinating the festival requires many hands — this year, nearly 300 members of the congregation will volunteer or donate to the festival in some way, Buer said.
“This is a gift we give to the community,” Buer said. “People really seem to enjoy it, and I always hear from people who want to know if we’re having the festival this year because they don’t want to miss it.”
The festival also gives members of Calvary’s congregation a chance to meet people from the larger community and welcome them into the church. Two years ago, 2,500 people attended the Advent Festival.
“As a congregation, we get to know more people and make more friendships,” Novak said. “We want to give people a time to relax, stop and take it all in. We want to put them in the Christmas mood.”
Buer encourages people to attend the festival as a way to remember the true reason for the season — in other words, there will be no Santa Claus sightings at this festival.
“That’s one of our restrictions: no Santas,” Buer said. “We celebrate Christmas for a meaningful reason. This is a way to approach the anticipation of the birth of Jesus, which is the most important gift of all.”