The Mission of the Cycle of Light
I spend a lot of my life paying attention to rhythms. The seasons; Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, loom large as they usher in familiar patterns and moments that transport me to various times of my life. Having been raised in a liturgical tradition, there is a rhythm in the church year with customs reminding me of various and essential theology. These days lend themselves to missional moments that can invite people to explore faith.The church year begins with a Cycle of Light in the three seasons of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. We move from darkness to light in an intentional journey. Click To Tweet
The church year begins with a Cycle of Light in the three seasons of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. We move from darkness to light in an intentional journey. If we are attentive, we can see how this excursion can be deliberate in cultivating a missional presence in the communities where we live. We can easily invite people into the Cycle of Light with meaningful moments of engaging the past, present and future and discovering why these calendar days can be filled with more understanding and purpose.
Advent is a season of preparation, expectation and reflection. We prepare to celebrate the first coming Christ as we meditate and focus on the consummation of the Kingdom of God in the return of Jesus. Advent themes consist of hope, light, longing and contemplation. Advent voices are anchored in the biblical texts of Isaiah and the narratives of John the Baptist and Mary. How can we leverage these focal points in the missional landscape of our neighborhoods and culture?
The world in recent years has been shaken by pandemic, social and political unrest, natural disasters, and it is in desperate need of Hope. It has been dark and we need light to illumine our daily grind. Inviting people into some holiday traditions is one way to strike a match and ignite some imagination and thought beyond the routine. Here are some suggestions…
Making an Advent Wreath is a tangible way to talk about the move from darkness to light. With each week another candle is lit and it becomes a bit brighter. There are dozens of short and poignant Advent devotionals that can be employed daily or weekly. Hope and light become workable topics to engage people with things that are really important.
St. Nicholas Day is December 6th in the church calendar and this offers an opportunity to anchor people in the real and authentic person that would later become known as Santa Claus. Nicholas was a Bishop of the early church in the 4th century who was known for his faith and generosity. There are several heartwarming stories of things he did in helping people and especially children. A reflection on gift giving and generosity could be anchored in this saint of church history.
Making craft gifts or decorations, writing and sending Christmas cards, baking Christmas cookies or other holiday favorites all provide chances for engagement, interaction and conversation with people. In our community we are doing a candlelight carol sing around a city Christmas Tree in our city park. The carols themselves will tell the tidings of great joy of a Savior born to save humanity.
The cycle of light finds its manifestation in the Feast of the Incarnation otherwise known as Christmas. The Light of Christ Jesus is the demonstration of a realized hope. All we see is not all there is and beyond the trials and tribulations of this earthly life there is a joy that can be found. The 12 days of Christmas are a time to bathe ourselves in this expressed eternal reality, to touch by faith something deeper and yet very real. It is a time of celebration illustrated in gift giving.
Kids are out of school so maybe engage them in some intentional acts of kindness for neighbors and those who may have greater needs. Organize leaf raking, community clean-ups, more cookies and crafts, caroling, possibly ending with a bonfire with smores and hot chocolate. Emmanuel; God-With-Us can be emphasized through storytelling, songs and prayers. Build a ginger bread house together and unfold the mystery of how God came to make His home with us.
The Cycle of Light ends with Epiphany where the Light of Christ is shared with the world. We remember the Wise Men, outsiders and strangers who recognized something had changed in the heavens as a sign of life. What was a promise to the covenant people of God is now given to the world to bring healing, freedom, comfort and joy.
Have a star gazing night with telescopes set-up in an appropriately dark corner of your community. Talk about the heavens, creation and light as you tell the story of the wise men and their journey to find Messiah.
Epiphany is Christ proclaimed to the nations. You can have an international pot-luck dinner to celebrate our diversity in that people from every tribe, people, nation and tongue can find a unity in the Gospel message of salvation. Maybe add a craft of making stars.
Talk about life journeys and maybe stress like the Wise Men heading home by another way it is a time to consider a different life path. This is a good exercise as it could coincide with New Year’s Resolutions and starting something new.
Missional Moments in the Holidays
There are lots of ideas (google them – look on Pinterest). Be creative. In all of these events make them Incarnational activities. Jesus wants to Christmas in us, dwell in our hearts and lives and make us a conduit of all HE is to a world desperate for good news. That is; in the midst of these moments, community is formed, relationships are built, connections are being made. Jesus practiced a ministry of WITH-NESS being with people who were in need whether they knew it or not. We are to do the same.The holiday season gives us 6 or so weeks to bring a mission intentionality to the landscape where we live. Click To Tweet
The holiday season gives us 6 or so weeks to bring a mission intentionality to the landscape where we live. The darkness of this world dissipates as a divine light grows in our midst. It breathes messages of hope, peace, expectation, generosity, kindness, gifting which are all made tangible in loving and serving.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9
In this Cycle of Light, we remember what God has done for us in making us a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession; as we hope for more of His Kingdom come. May we proclaim to others and see them step from the darkness of this world into the Marvelous Light of Christ!
The Rev. Jon Davis PhD is an Episcopal Priest, church planter, teacher, worship leader. He is on staff with Fresh Expressions as a mission strategist and is launching some Fresh Expression gatherings through the Abbey Mission in a NE suburb of Orlando. email@example.com