Our theme for Advent at BW was “Becoming Fully Human – the Inward and Outward Journey.” I have to admit, I don’t think we got the point across too well. This is about making a point, not about making cookies or music or firends, or what we usually do well at Christmastime.
For the sake of comparison, Kanye would have stayed up all night making art out of the whole process to make a point. He would have made the video about making the art that made the theme album, would have provided matching merch that allowed people to get in touch in the ways people get in touch these days. We, in comparison, are still using words with a little visual. Our music randomly attaches. Our art is somewhat last-minute. If we don’t have the relationships and the relating is not consistent, it is hard for us to get anywhere, content-wise.
For the people who get into the relationships, what we do is great. For the rest of you, I apologize. We don’t know how to get the most important thing in the world across to you very well, I fear. I’m sure quite a few people got the whole thing, but I am also sure it is important to fear that they won’t.
The book upon which much of what we were trying to do during Advent is even more remote than what we presented: Soulful Spirituality, by David Benner. I won’t even recommend the last half of the book. Most of my friends don’t have a lot of time for books, anyway, so I don’t have to worry. That’s not meant to be an insult. But it is true. I got into the book because he talks about two main problems that Advent should help people solve. I used it to inform our theme because it responds so well to the main problems people have with being a full-on Jesus follower:
1) I think people who are having problems following Jesus are often disidentified with most religion and they have good reasons to be so. The Boko Haram bombings on Christmas Day are just more examples of appalling things done in the name of religion. Benner says, “Too often religion seems to produce or support dogmatic rigidity, prejudice and small mindedness, intolerance and chronic – even if religiously disguised—levels of anger and hatred. Too often religion seems to contribute to the problems rather than being part of the solution.” Too true.
2) Even more, the people I care about have the main problem Benner wants to address in the book, and for which Advent should be an antidote. They have a disembodied Christianity. Benner says that “spirituality” teachers often describe us as “human beings on a spiritual journey…But I think it is equally true that we are spiritual beings on a human journey. Both journeys are crucial and each should complement the other…Humanity is not a disease that needs to be cured or a state of deficiency from which we need to escape. The spiritual journey is not intended to make us into angels, cherubim, seraphim, gods, or some other form of spiritual beings. It is intended to help us become all that we, as humans, can be. How tragic, therefore, that some suggest that the spiritual journey should head in precisely the opposite direction. Spiritual paths and practices that distance us from what it means to be a human are not good for humans.” Also true.
We tried. We even had a weekly heartbeat meditation to get us into our bodies. We never got it turned up loud enough to make its full impact (yes, we have an art attention deficit disorder), but we tried. Some people really got it. But I’ve got a feeling they were the most properly identified and already appropriately embodied. The disidentified were not there, of course. And the disembodied spent a lot of time feeling a bit suspicious and uncomfortable. I am not sure how much we convinced either needy group.
I read books like Soulful Spirituality so I was into the whole thing. But, like I said, I’m not sure how much impact we made on the rest. One incident that gives me hope, however, was Christmas Eve. Of all the songs we sang, two songs were sung with the most comfort and enthusiasm. The first one was the first one: “Let It Snow.” Who knew everyone even knew that song so well? I turned it into a song about yearning for what all humans yearn for: just being held tight in the warmth. Our bodies and souls are all set up for God to be with us. The second one was “O Holy Night.” Who knew the hardest-to-sing Christmas song is the favorite? For me the most moving line in that song was “He knows our need. Our weakness is no stranger. Behold your king.” Our bodies and souls are moved in the direction of being saved by holy nights. I honestly think Kanye would agree, even if he was snubbed for best album in 2011.
While I am very challenged by the present day and what people think and what they are becoming. Advent has renewed my convictions and has somehow been a filling station for new energy to do what I can do to tell the story of Jesus in a way people can hear it and become part of it. I’m looking forward to 2012.