Advent service – Laying down our idols.
Introducing themes from radical theology in the advent service.
As people came into the building the entrance to the chapel was blocked with a sign asking people to wait. We usually go through into the chapel to start the service but there was preparation to do first. I asked everyone to write their name on a sandwich bag in preparation for the service. I disrupted the normal order of doing things to get people thinking about the traditional themes of Advent – waiting and preparation before starting the main service. Once everyone had settled down the following was read from Isaiah 40:3
“In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
“Unlike Mary we have already been impregnated by all manner of things and there is little room for God”
This was taken from a transformance art event described by Katharine Moody in her book Radical Theology and Emerging Christianity (I assume it’s from an Ikon event but I’m not sure).
We watched this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_-9cGDiON0) of Peter Rollins speaking about the sacred object.
I then spoke:
“As we heard at the beginning unlike Mary we are already impregnated, leaving little room for God. Our lives are full of sacred objects – idols – gods; those things that have promised satisfaction and completeness but oppress us in their inability to fulfil their promise. Let us, as in the verse from Isaiah, prepare a way for the Lord.”
At this point I asked people to consider the sacred items that they had with them – the items that they believed would bring happiness and fulfillment and to put them in the sandwich bag they had written their name on. Once people had chosen which item(s) they wanted to put in I bought out a bin and asked them to empty themselves of their idols by placing them in the bin (with an assurance that nothing was going to happen to them). Once I had collected them all I asked how it felt to have given up the sacred objects and let people speak.
“As Peter outlined in the video it isn’t just material items that become idols in our lives it can be relationships, career, fame, starting a family or perhaps even belief in an interventionist God. Whether or not these sacred objects are in themselves good they cannot provide completeness and satisfaction any more than the apple from the forbidden tree. Like Lent, a season in which we can experience the death of our gods, Advent is a season within which to empty ourselves of our gods in preparation as we wait to see what is birthed in their place at Christmas.
In the laying down of our idols may we find that love and community in the embracing of the complexity, depth, difficulties, and beauty of life be birthed in their place.”
I asked people to consider the idols in their lives that they can lay down during advent whilst returning the items to their owners – playing Flaws by Bastille as this touches on themes from the service.