Advent has been a part of social media for several years now. I first heard about the Advent Conspiracy, known as [AC] from Facebook a few years ago. Advent Conspiracy is a way to think about Advent not as a time to shop and consume, but to remember what we are really doing this season: Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, Love All. Advent Conspiracy created alternative Advent Calendars that were shared on Facebook and on Twitter.
Other sites began to take on a new Advent challenge through social media. Busted Halo released this now famous video of Advent in Two Minutes to help explain what the season of Advent represents, the traditions of the candles and the colors used, and how Advent is different than Lent.
Then, following the rise of the Occupy Movement, @OccupyAdvent formed and reminds us on social media of ways to slow down, watch and wait for God. Inspirational messages are tweeted, resources shared—even music playlists for Advent to remind us that it’s not yet time for Christmas carols! And I’m sure there are more organizations, Twitter accounts and Facebook pages associated with reclaiming Advent (please comment and post your resources below!).
But what struck me this year was the great photo challenge from Rethink Church. The Advent Photo-A-Day Challenge being shared on Facebook and Instagram has been a fun way to think about Advent in new ways, to respond and engage as individuals and as communities. I have been posting my own responses to the word each day through photos on my Facebook page, but also have been posting photos to start the conversation on my church’s Facebook page. You can search the photos at Instagram and Facebook through the hashtags #rethinkchurch and #rethinkchristmas (the official tags from Rethink Church) but I also know some are using #rethinkadvent (which makes more sense to me).
Rethink Church isn’t the only site to start this challenge: some churches have come up with their own, and here’s one I found on Pinterest. But the Rethink Church (brought to us by our United Methodist friends) Advent Photo-A-Day Challenge is the most popular out there that I have found. It’s only day 4 and as I look through my friend’s Facebook photos and search under the hashtag, I find so many ways people are using this. Pastors are challenging their churches to think about each word and what it means to them, words such as “Peace”—how do you find peace? What does peace look like to you? How do you live it out? Others are simply responding to the word with their images. Some words, like Day 2’s “Bound,” have multiple meanings—I posted a picture of my son bound up in his pajamas (because it really was a cute photo). A friend posted a picture of her Bible, because it is a book that is bound, and she is bound to her Bible. My husband posted a picture of our son jumping, because he was “bounding.” Another posted a photo of her parent’s home, where she is bound to go once her Christmas vacation begins.
It’s been a fun, creative challenge. It’s been exciting to see what other’s share, and how it has invited others into the conversation. Many of my friends, conservative and liberal, churchgoers and non-churchgoers, are commenting, liking, and now even participating themselves. People who know little about the church are now learning about Advent--what it means, and are sharing their thoughts and joining in conversation.
The power of social media has really turned Advent on its head this year. It’s been breaking through for some time, but this year, I am hearing story after story of individuals and churches engaging each other, challenging each other in healthy ways, and immersing themselves in a deeper conversation. For some, it’s just fun. For others, it is a challenge to rethink this time of waiting for Christmas.
It’s not too late to join in.
And if you are in the mood for something to really get you rethinking Advent and Christmas, check out the Salt Project’s newest video Magnificat in English and in Spanish. Wow. And be sure to share it. Advent is here.