In advance of the first Sunday of Advent, the Hope and History Campaign has launched an Advent liturgy titled ‘Into the Neighbourhood.’ The liturgy is available free online in an attractive, easily downloadable format.
The title of the liturgy draws on Eugene Peterson’s translation of John 1:14 (the Message) and is dramatized around the lectionary readings from Isaiah. Like the Hope and History statement, the liturgy aims to inspire Christians to commit themselves to service and action, particularly in light of the Haass-O’Sullivan talks on flags, parades and dealing with the past.
Rev David Campton, a Methodist minister who crafted the liturgy, said:
Part of the purpose of the Hope and History statement was to introduce some different language into the public square in the run up to the Haass-O’Sullivan talks – to prompt conversations about hope, healing, humility, generosity and imagination. The choice of words and language are important if you are wanting to develop a dialogue on difficult issues.
In the prologue to John’s Gospel, often read in Carol Services at this time of year, the writer describes the incarnation of Christ as ‘the Word’ becoming flesh. Eugene Peterson in his translation, “The Message” renders that:
“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood.“
For the small group of clergy that wrote the original Hope and History statement, the liturgy is a natural extension of the campaign, which has garnered more than 1500 online signatures. Over the past few weeks the liturgy has been distributed through various denominational networks. It is hoped that congregations and ministers of all Christian traditions will connect the reality of the incarnation that is fundamental to the Christmas season with working to heal our divisions. As Campton continued:
Central to the Hope and History statement was Jesus’ command to love our neighbours. In the light of that and inspired by Peterson’s description of the incarnation, we would encourage local churches to love their neighbourhoods and turn our words into flesh and blood reality. To that end we have developed this Advent Candle Liturgy entitled ‘Into the Neighbourhood’ broadly based on the set readings for Advent from Isaiah in this year’s lectionary, focusing on the Coming Kingdom of Peace, Justice, Joy, and Hope – some of the key words in the original Hope and History statement.
Join with us as we seek to reflect the light of God’s love for the world, a light that the darkness cannot put out.
Small groups and individual Christians can also find value in reading and reflecting on the liturgy.
The Hope and History campaign encourages people to continue to sign the statement, using this action as a means to further commit themselves to working to heal divisions and inspire hope. The organizers are also interested in hearing from people who use the liturgy, and welcome feedback on their Facebook page.