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Christians urged to "Reclaim Christmas"

December 1 2008:

Environmentally-minded Christians in the UK are recommending that families and churches "Reclaim Christmas" this year, and put "the waiting back into waiting" during the traditional Advent period of December.

The Times reports that the Church of England’s new Advent website offers a contrasting response to the economic downturn compared to the Chancellor’s efforts to boost high street spending. Whywearewaiting.com has been launched to help Christians focus on the true essence of Advent and Christmas.

The site features an interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. Advocating a more austere approach to the season, Dr Williams critiques the consumerism of Christmas that easily crowds out the traditional Advent activities of waiting and reflecting. ‘We don't have quite the sort of quiet we need to think, “Well what would it be if Jesus really came as if for the first time into my life?” ’ he says. The website includes a quiz about patience, and daily thoughts quotations to open up onscreen.

Meanwhile, with the motto: “Shop less, live more, save the earth” the team at Operation Noah are promoting a series of events throughout Advent encouraging people to experience Advent in its traditional sense - as a period of "quiet reflection and eager anticipation for the birth of Christ," rather than as a time to buy and consume.

Advent has traditionally been a fasting period in the Christian calendar, culminating in the feast of Christmas on December 25, but in recent years it has increasingly become a time of a month of non-stop feasting, without the chance of reflection and thoughtfulness that it has offered in the past.

The campaign will be officially launched in London on November 11th, which is Remembrance Day in the UK, with a talk on Christianity and Climate Change by the thought-provoking Benedictine Abbot of Worth Abbey, Father Christopher Jamison, featured on the BBC documentary Monastery last year, who said at the time that:

"Advent is the traditional month of preparation before Christmas, a time of fasting and intense prayer, a time of eager expectation. It is above all a time to celebrate waiting as a normal part of human experience, when the Christian tradition invites us to wait for the birth of a child. In Advent we rejoice that we are waiting, that there is still time to prepare a way for the Lord and we celebrate the virtue of patience. By contrast, the consumer world tells us not to wait but to 'buy now.' Greed cannot wait, so to learn to wait is a simple antidote to greed." Father Christopher Jamison.
"Advent is the traditional month of preparation before Christmas, a time of fasting and intense prayer, a time of eager expectation. It is above all a time to celebrate waiting as a normal part of human experience, when the Christian tradition invites us to wait for the birth of a child. In Advent we rejoice that we are waiting, that there is still time to prepare a way for the Lord and we celebrate the virtue of patience. By contrast, the consumer world tells us not to wait but to 'buy now.' Greed cannot wait, so to learn to wait is a simple antidote to greed."

The plans include a ‘Buy Nothing Day’ on Saturday November 29th - a day where you challenge yourself to switch off from shopping and tune into life. Through the scheme, people all around the world from Indonesia to the Netherlands will make a pact to take a break from shopping.

Operation Noah has also published a children’s drama for schools called ‘A Present for the Future’; a weekend itinerary and liturgy for ‘Reclaim Christmas’: a prayer card and the ‘Big Green Give Away’ in the UK Diocese of Birmingham - all downloadable from their website: www.operationnoah.org/.

On November 29th - one of the busiest shopping days of the year - shoppers passing through the grounds of Birmingham Cathedral will be given an extra present by “pilgrims” – people who have donated gifts from their home that they have never used.

Shoppers will then be asked to give away the free present to a friend or neighbour as a Christmas present in turn.

A candle burning in celebration of Advent. Image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candle.
There will be special acts of worship at household recycling centres in the city, a service of lament, a craft workshop and an evensong of celebration of creation and creativity.

Operation Noah is the first Christian campaign organisation in the UK to focus exclusively on the issue of climate change.

Its vision is to encourage the British and Irish churches and governments to lead a radical transformation in both their culture and economic systems. The aim is to help create a transformation towards simpler, liveable and supportable lifestyles that will increase happiness and well-being, while safeguarding the whole of God’s creation for future generations.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

Here are a few things recommended by the Operation Noah team to do:

1. Meet at a local landfill site or recycling centre and gather together for a short service of reflection on how we are running up ecological debts. Bring shopping receipts, credit card statements and other symbols – and burn them in a brazier.

Christians are being encouraged to experience Advent as a period of "quiet reflection and eager anticipation for the birth of Christ".
2. Stage a performance of the Operation Noah Advent drama: “A Present for the Future”. with local schoolchildren.

3. Build your service around the beautiful Canticle of Daniel or Psalm 148 , the so-called “canticle of creatures.”You can find useful hymns and prayers at the Web of Creation website. Or see Pthe liturgy created by ARC for an advent service at St George's Chapel at Windsor, and adapt it freely for your own use and needs.

4. Be inspired by the Anglican diocese in Birmingham, UK, which is running a “Green Give Away” on the streets. Scour your attics and cupboards and GIVE! This is not an excuse for dumping your junk, but a chance to help others. Look for gifts that a total stranger would find a real surprise! Maybe you can also help out charity shops? Other families with less than yourself? Those toys that never get played with? Reclaim Christmas and do a big inventory on your possessions. And then do all this with others!

5. Spend time with your family and friends MAKING your own presents at Craft Christmas Parties. It’s more personal to give a gift you have made yourself, you can have fun being creative with those around you and it will help out with the credit crunch!

6. “Spend Like There Is a Tomorrow”. You don’t have to be a genius to make simple presents… read here about how our Campaign Strategist made a boxful of grapefruit scented fizzing bathcubes. Or go to the Operation Noah website for other suggestions.

7. There are posters and stickers to help you put the word around, available as PDF downloads at the Operation Noah website.

LINKS

Operation Noah's Campaign to Reclaim Christmas

Church of England's Whyarewewaiting.com

Father Jamison's talk on Christianity and Climate Change

Advent Liturgy created for the BBC



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