So a few weeks ago I got a crazy idea in the middle of Sunday church, and I thought, “Oh, man, this could be really cool, but super-last-minute-crazy-ideas don’t usually get off the ground….” But the more I thought about it and got excited and started sketching out ideas, well, by the end of the service I thought, “What the heck, let’s just see what people think.”
Which is how the next week we wound up starting a community art project for Advent! As I was talking through the idea with one of the worship leaders who helped make this happen, we discovered we both love Advent because it speaks possibility into our broken world. It says, “Don’t give up hope yet, because Jesus is coming! He will bring light into the darkness, redemption and healing into our broken lives and communities. Emmanuel, God with us!” In celebrating Advent, every week we build anticipation of his coming, so that Christmas doesn’t spring out of nowhere, but instead we tell the story reminding us of our need for Jesus.
So each week, we added one color to the banner. Together, the congregation read aloud an Advent scripture to guide our reflections. Then everyone in the congregation got a small piece of paper in that color and we asked them to write part of their journey on it, and invited folks to them come attach it to the banner. We started with the darkness, asking people to write things they saw in the world around them that are broken and need redeemed and restored. The second week we added the pathway, representing things that need healing our own journeys, and the third week we added the light, writing down things that bring us hope that the light is coming, things God is in the process of renewing now. The last week, we added the Christmas star, writing names of Jesus.
For us, it was a way of doing active, participatory worship, giving everyone in the congregation a chance to reflect on Advent and add their voice. It was a way of making space for the artistic gifts in our community during worship. It was a way to visually build anticipation towards Advent and the coming of Christ, watching the light come to life. And we were pleasantly surprised at the level of enthusiasm and participation in the church—people really took ownership of the project, looked forward to it, and wanted to know what was happening each week. Which probably means we’ll wind up doing more of this sort of thing in the future…
If this inspires you, you’re welcome to take this concept and run with it in your own worship planning—the credit for this one goes to the Holy Spirit, a gratitude project with post-its the week before, and the lovely folks at Living Water Community Church in Chicago for being a huge sandbox for exploratory, congregational-based worship art.
Photo credits from @thcchurch.