November 29, 2012

Advent: Taking it to the Streets

(But let’s wait until December…)

It's nearly December; for weeks now the media – traditional and social – has increasingly ramped up its Christmas messaging. With Thanksgiving behind us – and despite having a week plus between turkey day and December 1 – all things fall have mostly disappeared as people rush headfirst into Christmas and Advent, using their Facebook feeds to sort themselves into the Advent vs. Christmas, Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays camps.

While my house is still decorated for fall, I’ve found it hard to resist some of the tempting Advent and Christmas posts filling my Facebook newsfeed. After seeing one too many posts related to the Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays divide, I found this cartoon to be most appropriate, sharing it on the ECF Vital Practices Facebook feed along with this question:

"Recognizing that the USA today includes more than one cultural narrative, are you doing anything to counter this 'us vs. them' sensibility during Advent and Christmas?"

Earlier in the week, I posed a similar question on the ECF Vital Practices' Facebook page:

Our church brings ashes to the street on Ash Wednesday; how might we bring Advent to the streets during this hectic season? The ECFVP team talked about this last week; Episcopal Café notes that others are also asking this same question. What are you ideas for connecting people with their faith outside of our walls?

Here’s a sampling of responses:

How about low cost Advent Calendars with a little service schedule at the bottom or on the back.”

“I like William's idea. The Advent "Calendar" could be something as simple as this list we made for Pre-Schoolers:

  1. Call a friend or family member that you have not talked with in awhile 
  2. 1st Sunday HOPE Candle. Be thankful! 
  3. Meet someone for lunch or have a play date 
  4. Take food to a Food Bank 
  5. Let someone in line get in front of you 
  6. Clean out and donate to Goodwill, Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, etc 
  7. Make a homemade gift for someone 
  8. Put change in the Salvation Army pot 
  9. 2nd Sunday JOY Candle. Smile! 
  10. Visit nursing home or a shut in or an older neighbor 
  11. Drop off a new toy at Toys for Tots 
  12. Make a card for someone  
  13. Take a ‘like new’ or gently used toy to the Tileston Clinic  
  14. Be nice to someone you do not like, or pray for them! 
  15. Bake and share with neighbors  
  16. 3rd Sunday PEACE Candle. Be Grateful 
  17. Practice less complaining 
  18. Pick up litter 
  19. Forgive someone 
  20. Give compliments…make them sincere 
  21. Tell a friend “Thank You” for their friendship ! 
  22. Say something nice. . . with enthusiasm . . . to others 
  23. 4th Sunday LOVE Candle. Hug your friends  
  24. Be kind to others…ALL DAY ! 
  25. Christmas Day ! CHRIST Candle. Wish everyone “MERRY CHRISTMAS !!!””

The Anglican Cathedral in Toronto created a quiet space in their underground shopping mall last year.”

“I have an idea - just like kids go to Santa to ask for what they (think they) want -- set up prayer stations, outside of churches or even wherever there are shoppers, so they can take a break and pray with others for what they REALLY want - for love, for healing, for hope, for health ... for grownups and teens and kids too ... offer coffee/tea/cocoa - and prayer! You can call it something like, "What do you REALLY want this Christmas?"

What are your ideas for bringing Advent to the streets in your community?