Following the attack on the Capitol one week ago today, we asked our contributing authors to share a brief reflection or excerpt from what they were planning to say to their congregations in sermons, pastoral letters, and prayers.
As the calendar turns and an extraordinary 2020 concludes, advertisers for gyms and weight loss programs bombard us with some version of, “A New Year, a new you!” The fitness industry’s perennial pursuit of profit based on our short-lived desires for self-improvement is worryingly ingrained into the lifecycle of the American psyche. However, the annual call to honest self-examination is an important challenge that resonates. Nobody needs honest reflection and a “New Year, new you” campaign more than the American church after its response to 2020.
Advent is a season between. Advent is about celebrating the coming of the Messiah in Jesus and the second coming of Christ. It is about living in such a way that we are honest about our grief while also living with hope. It is asking God to show up and expressing our gratitude for all the ways God is already present. Advent is a lot like dawn…it is neither night nor day. But like a watchman, we turn our back on the darkness and turn our face toward the eastern horizon in hope for coming light.
As we find ourselves nearing Thanksgiving in a year filled with lamentable circumstances, we practice celebration. Celebration is not a distraction from the realities of the world we dwell in. Celebration is rooted in deep joy that can be discovered if paid attention to. Celebration was something built into the liturgical lives of the people of Israel and the early church. Celebration and joy are spiritual disciplines practiced even when times are difficult, perhaps most especially when times are difficult.
Despite being forced to cut back on our experiences, expenses, and exposure, we collectively remain in a hurry. We were in a hurry before the virus forced us out of common spaces. We have been in a hurry seeking to adapt to sudden change. Currently, we seem to be in a hurry to get back. Back to what? Back to the office, back to school, back to profits, back to consumerism, back to sanctuaries, back to normal? Are we in such a hurry to get back that we are missing the chance to move forward into something new?