I don’t know about you, but I am tired of waiting: Waiting for the pandemic to end. Waiting for decisions to be made. Waiting for repairs to my house to be done. Are you also tired of waiting? Are your congregants? We can’t wait to get back to a greater sense of normalcy, to the “before time,” even to the familiar smells of worship. We want to focus on all the good and skip over the challenging and difficult aspects of our reality. I have my suspicions that this desire to escape is a fairly prevalent feeling, so it should come as no surprise to hear the suggestion that maybe this year we should skip Advent.
In some ways skipping Advent and elongating the celebration of Christmas seems like a pastoral and appropriate decision given the context many of us find ourselves in. But I implore you to take the countercultural approach. Rather than running from the struggles of this past year, intentionally enter into them. Use the opportunity of Advent to acknowledge all that is not right in the world and in our lives and to yearn together for our coming Savior. Use the opportunity of this Advent to further develop the spiritual practice of waiting. Help your people become more resilient in the face of adversity by showing them how it is possible to hold in tension grief and joy, lament and hope.
To assist you there is a reflection in this issue on Blue Christmas / Longest Night along with practical suggestions. We also offer a worship series that asks the question “What Are You Waiting For?” to use as you lead your congregation in the practice of Advent waiting. Several songs of waiting and longing (with suggestions for how to use them) can be incorporated into the worship series or wherever your worship planning takes you. Following that same waiting theme, you will also find in this issue a children’s program, a poem, and a series of Advent candlelighting readings.
This Reformed Worship is part of a number of issues focusing on the connection between our communal worship and our small group and individual faith practices. You will find the story of one individual who applied the practice of the passing of the peace in a tangible way. There’s an exploration of how the spiritual practice of presence is connected to the incarnation of Christ and to preaching. There’s a worship service for New Year’s that connects to the practice of Ignatian Examen, and there’s also a service that leads into the Epiphany practice of the “chalking of the doors.” Reflecting further on Epiphany themes is an article inviting us to practice wonder by embracing the mystery of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.
If all of that isn’t enough, I hope you will appreciate learning about the historical practice of holding baptisms at Christmas and gaining insights into Korean worship. This issue is packed with practical resources and new insights and ideas. Read it reflectively, using it not only as a resource, but as a tool for your own spiritual nourishment.
If you’ve been eager to receive this issue, be assured it has been worth the wait!