All Creation Waits: Greening the Congregation at Advent
Why We Do This
Advent calls us to prepare for Christ’s return as we remember and celebrate his entrance into the world. This season in particular gives us the space to reflect upon Christ’s redemption and restoration of ALL life, and what our role can be in helping to create a world restored by hope in Christ.
The weeks leading up to Christmas in our culture focus relentlessly on consumption. According to the book “Green Christmas” (see further resources), the United States produces 25% more he waste during the Advent and Christmas season than the rest of the year. While this is a season of joy, we live in a time where we must prayerfully consider how our celebrations impact the rest of our earthly home. We recall that Christ was welcomed in with nothing more than exuberant song and simple cloth.
All Creation Waits is a resource designed for faith communities and congregations to tailor their Advent season and Christmas preparation towards considering the environmental impact of these holidays. Within, you will find ideas for “greening” congregational practices during the Advent and Christmas season, as well as ideas for events, activities, and study that will help foster the participation of the entire community.
This guide has been created through Lutherans Restoring Creation, a grassroots movement promoting care for creation in the full life and mission of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). We heartily welcome any suggestions and ideas that you can further contribute to this movement. We invite you to share your story with us! Contact information is provided under Further Resources.
Blessings on your Advent journey!
Adorning With Less
Preparations for Christmas provide an opportunity to ask what is essential. Do adornments highlight or obscure?
• If candles are used at Christmas Eve services, save candles that have only been slightly burnt.
• Consider asking congregants to bring their own from home, and provide enough candles for visitors.
• Try to use candles made from soy wax or beeswax, as opposed to petroleum-derived paraffin.
• Determine if light strands are necessary
• Make sure lights are on a timer or that someone has been designated to turn them off.
• If new lights are needed, purchase LED bulbs.
• Plant a poinsettia bush in gardening zones 10-12 to avoid buying new plants each year.
• In northern climates, try to buy poinsettias, pine trees, and fresh garlands from environmentally friendly sources, or local growers.
• Evaluate congregational decorations and the practices surrounding them.
• Questions to consider:
• Are new objects bought every year, what can we retain from years past?
• Where can we pare down our spending?
• Do secular symbols dominate the spiritual, in the worship space?
• What must we retain, what can we let go?
• Evaluate if anything needs to be disposed of, and dispose of properly. • Turn live trees into mulch for church gardens.
• If the congregation has a glut of decorations, donate to a charitable organization, or consider hosting a decoration swap (see Activities and Events).
• Dial down the thermostat (a blessing if albs are worn at Christmas).
Rethinking how we use the gifts given to us
• Provide opportunities for congregants to participate in “alternative giving”.
• Display information pertaining to organizations such as the ELCA's Good Gifts, or the ecumenical Heifer international. Both of these send materials to people in developing nations, and provide catalogs free online.
• Encourage families to give to others in need on in honor or loved ones as opposed to buying gifts.
• See “Further Resources”
• If your congregation experiences an influx of offerings around the holidays, determine if those can this be allotted for:
• Intentional greening of the congregation; whether this be installing low-flow •Provide funding for other initiatives to be taken up during the year.
• Donating to a local or international organization that promotes environmental stewardship or justice
Activities and Events
Provide opportunities for the congregation to come together to promote environmentally sound holiday practices
If any of your congregants are blessed with crafting skills, inquire if they would be willing to teach their trade to others. Making your own gifts such as natural soaps, candles, jams, blankets, or rugs can be a more environmentally responsible choice by cutting down on transportation of goods and packaging, and by not relying on companies that may not employ sound environmental practices.
Farmer’s market excursion
If there is a year-round market in your area, arrange a group outing just before Christmas to give people an opportunity to incorporate locally grown groceries into their holiday feasts.
While some homes may retain sentimental holiday decorations year after year, many are pressured to buy new decorations every year. To halt this wasteful cycle, plan a fellowship event where people may bring gently used decorative objects to can exchange with others. Invite people to bring a favorite holiday dish to pass and an opportunity to economically and environmentally jazz up their holiday decorating!
Fair Trade Fair
Lutheran World Relief partners with SEERV to provide congregations the opportunity to host vendors from impoverished communities. This can be anything from handcrafted ornaments and gifts to fair trade coffee and chocolate. Their website (under Further Resources) provides a simple, step-by-step registration process.
As a Sunday school activity, have kids bring brown paper bags and decorate them to use as wrapping paper (try carving stamps from potatoes, or using naturally derived dyes and inks).