Observing Advent 'IRL' and online

By Dan Webster
Posted Nov 28, 2011

[Episcopal News Service] I love Advent, but that was not always the case. I guess I had to grow into it. And that happened about 20 years ago when I heard a sermon at St. Columba’s Episcopal Church in Washington, DC.

Parishioners were invited to take a printed card with these words: Slow down. Quiet. It’s Advent.

Some, I learned, would post this on their refrigerator as a reminder, others on a bulletin board at work. Those words are just a bit countercultural for the season; they should be. After all, many retailers think the 12 days of Christmas start on Dec. 13.

St. Columba’s took their “Slow down. Quiet. It’s Advent” ministry to a wider audience when the Rev. Jay Sidebotham and Susan Elliott put together the Advent poster still available from Morehouse Publishing. Of course there are all sorts of wonderful devotionals for Advent readily available from your favorite bookseller or online publisher.

But now we can also observe Advent via social media. The Advent Conspiracy on Facebook has, over the past two years, attracted more than 30,000 members. It was developed to help teach people about the person of Christ, be a clearinghouse for resources supporting the season, and to offer charitable giving opportunities.

On Twitter, #OccupyAdvent was established on October 25 and is also on Facebook:  “Reclaiming the holy season of waiting and watching for the Lord. Simplify and slow down.”

My own diocese, the Diocese of Maryland, is launching a multi-media online Advent calendar. Posts appearing on the website will be re-written into radio copy by the Rev. Chip Lee, a former radio announcer and be featured on wbal.com, the online channel of the Hearst Corporation’s AM radio station in Baltimore.

Here’s the point I want to make: Advent need not be limited to religious observance on four Sundays before Christmas. Online resources can help us live, in real life (IRL), a holy season that prepares us to receive the Incarnation of God.

Visit some of these sites. Make time to look inward. Notice how others are spending Advent. You may find a new community of faith online or be directed to an IRL community to help you prepare, once again, to receive the holy Child of God into your heart.

— The Rev. Dan Webster is canon for evangelism and ministry development in the Diocese of Maryland.