Dear friends in Christ,
Sometimes you hear people talking about how we should all be Easter People. As you know, the Supreme Executive Committee rejects this view. Both of us (Tim and Scott) think we should all be Lent People, and that's why every single episode of Monday Madness ends with "Happy Lent!" regardless of what time of year it airs.
But seriously, we love Lent not just because it's the time of year for the Saintly Smackdown. We love Lent because it calls us to renew our walk with Jesus. Lent is a kind of spring cleaning for the soul in which we turn away from all the distractions of the world and turn once again toward Jesus.
2020 has been a year of distractions, and that's putting it kindly. Thousands and thousands are dead from a pandemic. Political leaders -- regardless of your preferred party -- have not exactly demonstrated excellence in leadership. We've seen racism exposed in new ways. Violence of all kinds seems to be on the rise all around the world. If ever there was a time for us to turn toward Jesus, this is it.
That's why we're especially looking forward to Advent this year. Sure, we like it because it's a purple season and we can wear our team colors. More than that, we are grateful for the arrival of this season, which like Lent, calls us to turn toward Jesus. We're preparing for Christmas rather than Easter, but both Advent and Lent invite us to turn away from distractions and turn toward the most important things.
Though most people think of us as Lentologists, we do know a few things about Advent and especially about turning toward Jesus. Here are some suggestions to savor the gift of Advent. We hope you'll think about how you'll approach Advent ahead of time, so you can be ready to make space for the still, small voice of God. Yes, we're saying this is the Advent for Advent.
Without further ado, here are some suggestions.
Use the Advent Word. For several years now, the Advent Word devotion has been hosted by our friends at Virginia Theological Seminary. Each day of Advent, they have chosen a word connected to the Sunday scripture readings. The idea is simple: you think about that word in your own life, and share a photo or a thought on social media with the tag #AdventWord. If you want more, there are lots of ways to do the Advent Word. There's also a podcast with people reading daily meditations.
Color the Advent Word. Forward Movement has created colorable Advent calendars, so you can illustrate your way through the season on posters created by Sybil MacBeth. They came in packs of five, so everyone in your family can have one, or you can share posters with friends. Some creativity sounds nice, doesn't it?
Read Waiting & Watching, a book of daily devotions connected to the Advent Word. Published by Forward Movement, this book gives you daily meditations for each day of Advent connected to the Advent Word. Contributors are Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Ian Markham, Sarah Stonesifer Boylan, Hugo Olaiz, Richelle Thompson, Miriam McKenney, and Scott "Lent Madness" Gunn. Illustrations are by Sybil MacBeth. There are significant bulk discounts, so your church could buy copies to send to every member or you could run an online book group for discussion and prayer. Available as a book or an ebook.
Make space. No need to open your wallet for this one. Just set aside time each day for some quiet. Turn off the phone, don't look at the computer, and open your heart and mind to hear God's call to you.
Read scripture. You can find the daily scripture readings for Advent on the Forward Movement website (or click here to look up the readings for any date). They're also listed in the back of the Book of Common Prayer. You might pair this practice with silence, above.
Shop like you're a Christian. Can you make an impact on the world with your Christmas shopping -- or lack thereof? Consider making charitable gifts for friends and family instead of buying more consumer goods. Think about buying from a small business or from a company that works for a positive impact with its workers and communities.
Prepare for Lent Madness. You can find gift items, such as Golden Halo winner mugs, on the Forward Movement website. Or maybe someone you know would like a Saintly Scorecard (bulk price) or a giant bracket poster. Think of it as a way of making even Christmas Day into year-round Lent.
Slow Down. Quiet. It's Advent. Jay Sidebotham has once again created a wonderful calendar that you can color in to get us through Advent. They sell in packs of 25. Buy some and share with your friends or your church.
Put a dog in your manger. OK, maybe not literally. But Tim "Lent Madness" Schenck has written a book of humorous meditations on the Advent and Christmas seasons. Check out Dog in the Manger: Finding God in Christmas Chaos as a book or ebook.
Connect with friends. Invite several friends to join you weekly for prayer and discussion of how we can turn toward Jesus in this difficult time. You can do this online, so your friends can be all over the world.
These are just a few ideas. Forward Movement has plenty of Advent resources available if they're helpful to you. And you can find things from plenty of other publishers and providers also.
The most important thing is to look for Christ among us at this time. We close with the lovely prayer that launches into Advent on the first day of the season.
Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Advent isn't really the new Lent. But it's just what we need right now. Let us all turn toward Jesus.
Yours in year-round Lent,