What does Advent have to do with sustainability?
The season of advent and the anticipation of Christmas allow us to think about our lives and our world in the framework of hope, waiting, and redemption. When it comes to the conversation surrounding the environment, these themes are definitely at play.
Advent is a season where we remember our longing for something better. It’s a season in which we remember that the injustices of the world are like cries for a world where things are restored and made whole.
During a year that has seen brutal wildfires destroy large portions of the Amazon Rainforest, climate change linked heatwaves bring record summer temperatures to parts of Africa and Europe, and a million species threatened with mass extinction, it’s safe to say that there is a deep longing for things to be different on our planet.
The Book of Romans puts it best-- "All of creation is groaning in labor pains up until the present time. The creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed" (Romans 8:19).
Not only is the comparison to childbirth fitting for the season in which we await Christmas, but it reflects both the severity of our present angst and agony, as well as the hope for which we wait.
Christmas celebrates the process of hope and redemption.
How do sustainability and advent go together? Sustainability is a more modern term that alludes to the call to care for creation. God has endowed and gifted humans with the responsibility to provide constant care for His creation. And all the ways in which we fall short of that call remind us that we are in need of a greater Savior.
Pope Francis’ Encyclical, Laudato Si, makes the case for an “integral ecology.” What the pope means is that caring for the Earth includes all creatures, all human beings, and all forms of life in a way that cannot be separated into distinct parts. God’s original intent was for an interconnected set of harmonious relationships. When one relationship damages, they all do.
Christ’s arrival marks the beginning of restoration; a point at which God can restore all relationships. Thus, in waiting for Jesus to come to Earth, we are also waiting to be whole once again.
Advent is a time of waiting, not passively, but eagerly. It’s a time to prepare for the process of restoration, and growing in our understanding of how all things integrate. This is a season in which we ask ourselves challenging questions, including ones about our present world and our responsibilities as its inhabitants.
While many may be conditioned to think of environmental concerns as totally separate from spiritual matters, God never meant to exclude the physical world from the process of redemption. As believers in resurrection, we get to reconsider what restoration could look like for a dying planet.
How can Christians better incorporate sustainability in the practice of Advent?
There are many ways in which sustainability applies to Advent. We see these in some of the significant themes that run through the season.
Preparing our hearts – Advent is even more about internal preparation than external busyness. A true commitment to sustainability starts from the heart. We must allow our hearts to be empathetic towards the people suffering from ecological crises. We must lament the loss of God’s creation.
Practicing Hope – Advent is a season of hope and expectation. What are our hopes? What is our vision for a restored environment both in our immediate surroundings and more globally? By sharpening our focus on that vision, we ignite our hearts with eager expectation.
Generosity – Many Advent practices revolve around giving. And this is a very good thing. The communities affected the most by poor environmental health are typically the poorest communities. We have a chance to equip them to turn things around through generosity. Consider how you can support rural villagers, indigenous farmers, or female growers as you give this season.
Renewal runs right through the story of Christmas. We believe that this absolutely includes the environmental renewal our planet desperately longs for.
We believe that we can be a part of creating more stories of hope for our planet. To invest in restoring the relationship between people and the planet for just $22, you can sign up to be a Purpose Partner. Visit this part of our site to learn more.