Anticipation is everything during the Christian season of Advent, celebrating the four weeks leading up to the birth of Christ.
But today’s Advent calendars – with little nooks filled with daily treats or sayings – can muddle that message, according to Gayle Montgomery, pastor of River Hills Community Church.
“Advent is a time of anticipation,” of the birth of Jesus, she said. “But we often think of it as a time to get something.”
So this year, RHCC is joining Clover Presbyterian Church and others in a Reverse Advent Calendar donation drive to benefit Clover Area Assistance Center.
Participants place an item of food, toiletries or goodies in a big blue “calendar” bag each day – the reverse of taking a treat from a regular Advent calendar – and watch the bags fill as Christmas nears.
“It’s like lighting the candles on an Advent wreath, said Pastor Douglass Key of Clover Presbyterian Church. “You see the increasing light as Christmas approaches.”
Reverse Advent Calendar events have become a worldwide trend, and the churches see it as a new twist on their ongoing support for CAAC. Montgomery first heard of the concept during a clergy breakfast at CAAC, where Pastor Key shared his church’s experience from last Christmas.
“They ate it up,” as something new, he said, and collected nearly a ton of food.
For years, the church devoted a table to Advent materials, but this idea offered a tangible way to help others without it seeming a burden, he said.
“It’s not too hard to buy a little extra when you’re shopping anyway,” Key said. Then at home, one item goes into the cupboard, the other into the donation bag. The calendars even offer suggested items – bar soap one day, pudding the next, and a “special sweet treat” for Christmas Eve.
Clover Presbyterian’s calendar lists wild card weekends to “put something in the bag that you would want to find if you were in emergency need.” In observance of Pearl Harbor Day on Dec. 7, the calendar called for pineapple.
“It’s a new addition, a new tradition,” Key said. “We’ve had great intergenerational participation. We knew it would be a hit with the youth, but our families and older members like it too. It’s fun.”
CAAC’s Dennis Williams said support from churches, individuals and other organizations makes life better for others.
“It benefits the churches, it’s a good teaching lesson, and it benefits the community,” he said.
Williams said every donation is welcome, but the pantry especially needs protein items such as canned tuna and chicken or peanut butter in plastic jars. Soaps, deodorants, toilet paper and other items are always needed too.
During the week after Christmas – while the kids are out of school – the donations will be sorted by type for delivery to CAAC.
Although the Advent season is fast progressing, it’s not too late to give to those in need. Call 803-222-4837 for hours and information or search Clover Area Assistance Center.