Slow Advent

Have you heard of the slow movement? Slow food? Slow living? It’s all about creating the space needed in life to draw closer connections between individuals and communities. The slow movement desires to strengthen the relationship between people and the earth and all it contains, to know where your food comes from, to grow it, gather it, prepare it, smell it, and take the time to relish it. It’s about being present, being grounded in who and where you are, and focusing on the journey of life and not simply goals and outcomes. To do that you need to slow down.

This year many of us have experienced a forced slowing as we stayed home to reduce the spread of COVID-19. We had nowhere to go, so households were forced to engage with each other. Siblings became each other’s only playmates. We took time to arrange virtual meetups and in some instances engaged more with distant friends and family than prior to COVID. Our worship was simplified (though its creation wasn’t simple), and church meetings were canceled. I don’t wish for a resurgence of COVID or the coming of another pandemic, but as real as all the loss of life, employment, dreams, and opportunities are, so are the glimpses of good things that arose in and through the pandemic. It’s important that we don’t lose the good. And one of the good things was the slowing down.

As we circle around to the Advent and Christmas seasons once again, whether your church is worshiping all together or in households or in small groups, I encourage you to intentionally plan a slow Advent. By that I mean being intentional about locating your congregation in the cosmic reality of God’s activity and in a specific time and place.

Help your congregants see that they are in the in-between time, the time between God breaking into this world as the incarnate Christ and the return of our glorious Savior.

Discover again how we can find hope in the fact that Christ became human and understands the highs and lows of life.

Remind your people that that same Christ overcame death itself, so we too can live knowing that one day we too shall experience that reality and even now can claim it as ours.

Take the time to name current realities in all their complexity: the grief, fear, loss, joy, excitement, and hope that exist side by side.

Name and pray against the evil of racism in all its forms, against the devaluing of life expressed by the normalization of abortion, against underfunded schools, against the refusal to care about missing Indigenous women, against the fact that so many Indigenous and isolated communities do not have access to clean water and electricity, and against other evils plaguing our communities and world.

Advent is about helping our people live lives of patient and active endurance amid personal, communal, national, and global struggles while clinging to the joyous expectation of Christ’s return. Advent isn’t simply about preparing for Christmas, buying gifts, and putting up decorations. It is about watching and waiting to see what God is doing in our lives and in the world around us and then joining God in that work by willingly giving up our life for others. Advent requires us to slow down—to watch, to look, to listen, and then, in consort with the Holy Spirit, to act.

Our hope is that in this issue of Reformed Worship you will find resources to do just that, not just during Advent, but all the way through the season of Epiphany.

Joyce Borger, an ordained minister in the Christian Reformed Church, is editor of Reformed Worship and director of Worship Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church.