This weekend marks the beginning of Advent, a season observed in many Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. The term is a version of the Latin word meaning "coming."

At First Lutheran Church in Detroit Lakes, the start of Advent also marks the beginning of a holiday tradition known as the "Advent Mini Concerts."

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"We've been doing it for more than 20 years now," says Holly Heisserer, who coordinates the mini-concert schedule for the church.

The tradition began, she added, when former First Lutheran Pastor Dave Peterson approached Marlys Douglas, director of the church's adult choir, with an idea for beginning an outreach ministry of music concerts, open to the public, to be held during the Season of Advent.

So Douglas began coordinating the concerts for the church, and the tradition has continued - and flourished - ever since.

In fact, says Heisserer, they get more requests from area musicians to take part in the mini-concert series than they have slots to fill.

Held during the first three Wednesdays in December, the mini-concerts are each half an hour in length, beginning at 12:05 and ending at 12:35 p.m.

"We want to extend the invitation to everybody in the community to come and enjoy the music of the holidays," said Heisserer. "This is a time for some reflection and relaxation, and some time to listen to a little music."

Heisserer said the noon-hour concert times are designed with working folks in mind, fitting within the typical workday lunch hour. But all are welcome, whether working or not.

"The concerts are all free and open to the public," she said.

A light lunch will follow each concert, with free will donations accepted for the lunch.

This year's performers will include a singer/guitarist, a group of high school vocalists with piano accompaniment, and a men's gospel quartet from Fergus Falls.

"We try to give a little variety each year," said Heisserer.

Those who choose to stay for the free-will-offering lunch will be treated to fresh-made soup, sandwiches and desserts, cooked up by a friendly crew of church volunteers.

First Lutheran Church is located at 912 Lake Avenue. Following is this year's mini-concert lineup.

December 5

12:05-12:35 p.m.: "Off Duty Chief" Tim Eggebraaten, singer/guitarist

Retired Detroit Lakes Police Chief, Tim Eggebraaten, will bring his signature brand of humor and song to the church stage for this holiday show. A well-known local singer and guitarist, Eggebraaten has shared his music and stories at performances all over the area since 2003.

December 12

12:05-12:35 p.m.: "AChord," men's small group vocal chorus

This gospel quartet from Fergus Falls will be making their debut as part of the mini-concert series, though Heisserer said she has heard them before, when they came to First Lutheran as part of a larger men's vocal group last summer.

"Their harmonies are just beautiful," she said.

The group includes Don Glesne (tenor), Dennis Johnson (lead), Nathan Johnson (baritone), Steven Langager (bass) and Sylvia Nygaard, accompanist.

December 19

12:05-12:35 p.m.: Detroit Lakes High School vocalists, accompanied by pianist Paul Heisler

Under the direction of DLHS vocal music instructor Kathryn Larson, these student vocalists have delighted local audiences as part of various high school ensembles, including the award-winning Laker Singers.