Creation care and Advent
Creation care involves much more than taking steps to reduce or even attempt to reverse climate change. An autopsy of a dead whale that was recently found on an Indonesian beach revealed the whale had more than 1000 pieces of plastic in its belly. Creation care entails acting in ways that are good for the welfare of other species and of the planet as a whole.
Advent, which begins on Sunday, December 2, is a season of preparation for celebrating God’s incarnation, specifically in human form but more generally in all of the cosmos.
For centuries, Christians mistakenly equated preparation with penitence: clergy instructed their congregants to identify their sin and then seeking forgiveness for it, seeking to make oneself spiritually pure in order to be worthy of experiencing the incarnate God’s presence. This mistaken emphasis is why in most churches the color for Advent is purple.
Thankfully, a growing number of Christians and churches now recognize that spiritual preparation is not synonymous with penitence. In many of these congregations, the color for Advent is blue, the color associated with the House of David. Blue points to Jesus as David’s successor, Israel’s new king.
From this broader perspective, preparations for celebrating the incarnation are more consonant with the preparations that expectant parents make for the birth of a new child. Expectant parents try to make room for the baby in their home (presuming they are not houseless), ensure that they have baby clothes, stock up on necessary supplies (diapers, wipes, etc.), and so forth.
Thus, to prepare for our annual celebration of the incarnation, commit to one or more steps that will improve your stewardship of creation, helping to prepare all of creation ready for the incarnation. Commit only to one or at most a handful of steps. Practice them daily throughout Advent. By Christmas these practices will have become habits.
The power of these small steps is two-fold. First, creation care will have become a slightly more integral aspect of your life. Second, by encouraging others to follow your example – actions being much more powerful than words – you will multiply the effect of your actions/new habits.
Possible steps toward creation care that you might consider adopting this Advent include:
· Refuse proffered straws in restaurants and elsewhere unless the straws are metal or paper
· Send ecards instead of paper Christmas cards
· Walk or bike whenever possible
· Reduce your consumption of meat and other non-vegetable proteins
· Turn off the lights every time you leave a room
· Replace regular lightbulbs with LED or CFL bulbs
· Read the electronic version of newspapers and magazines
· Avoid, whenever feasible, buying or using single use plastic beverage containers/bottles
· Avoid, whenever feasible, buying or using Styrofoam products
Of course, this list is only suggestive. Some of the best ideas will be steps that may have been nagging your conscience but seem too hard or problematic to adopt. Advent is the perfect time to take the plunge!
My hope and prayer are that Advent will become an annual season for Christians around the world to join in emphasizing creation care as a basic element of a healthy spiritual life.