Alternative Advent 3December 11, 2011
Today is the third Sunday of Advent, a season devoted to removing the distractions of the world so we can reflect on God coming to dwell among us that first Christmas. Yet, it seems Advent is too often reduced to merely lighting a few candles in church services. In the midst of the craziness of the season, we hardly seem to take the time to pause and remember. So, this year I am reflecting on a few efforts that take Advent to the streets in hopes the spirit of Christmas will trump the focus on shopping. One effort designed to help us pause and reflect is "Occupy Advent." A new initiative that is a play on the "Occupy Wall Street" movement. The "Occupy Advent" creators use Twitter to post morning and evening prayers that literally break into the fast-paced stream of thoughts on Twitter in hopes of sparking moments of meditation as a respite from the craziness. As the founder of the effort--a Lutheran pastor in Texas--explained when asked why he started "Occupy Advent":
I would like to see is Christians using the power of social media to change the conversation of the "holiday season" – away from the shallow commercialism and toward the power of waiting and watching.Thus, a couple of days ago they tweeted a prayer "For those who care more about how the cashier greets them than about the hungry & poor in their neighborhood" to encourage everyone to "Slow down, friends. Remember to leave space for God to enter into your life in this holy season." The "Occupy Advent" effort also includes a blog with longer posts designed to provoke meaningful thoughts in a time that can often be mind-numbingly busy. For instance, they had an excellent post last week about the politics of Advent. Here is an excerpt:
Now often seen as an innocuous slogan of the church, "Jesus is Lord" was a radical political claim for the first Christians. It is this creed that led to many of the martyrdoms of early Christians. In claiming Jesus as Lord, these Christians were also making the political statement - Caesar is not Lord. It was treason to confess Jesus as Lord, because that confession necessitated a denial of the authority of the Emperor. Still today, this is a troublesome claim. As a homiletical exercise prior to Christ the King Sunday, we placed various ideologies, ideas, and movements into the equation "If Jesus is Lord, then ________ is not." The not-so-shocking discovery we made? People loved when we told them that the things they despised are not Lord. People hated when we told them that the things they love are not Lord. In one night, with one train of thought, we simultaneously pissed of both Tea Partiers and Occupiers, socialists and capitalists.Amen! This is the subversive nature of Advent--it challenges us to cast away our idols and focus on our Lord who came to us that first Christmas. Just as people occupying public parks is a powerful message (see post here), so can be the mindset of occupying Advent. It is time to not merely have a passing Advent moment, but to stop and occupy.