Advice to Advent Devotional writers
|Phaedra Jean Taylor, "Annunciation"|
I'm copying here a note (slightly abridged) that I sent to our writers. I share it for two reasons.
One, I hope it encourages you to consider trying something similar in your own church. It's a great way to "build up the church," especially in an intensively particular fashion. I also believe it's an excellent way to get the arts involved. While it appeals primarily to the written and the visual arts, I could envision the other arts being brought in after the fact--an Advent hymn that responds to a given reflection, a dance that evokes the theme of the week, a Scripture-telling that enlivens the biblical text of the day.
Two, writing these reflections is actually hard work. You'd think it'd be easy. 300-500 words on the idea of waiting? We do it all the time--how hard could it be to write it up? Quite hard, I say.
Before I copy the note, here are the four themes that Tanner and I chose. We wanted something to create a coherent feel to the Devotional and we felt that these would be broad enough but also concrete enough.
1. Light and Darkness – November 27 – December 3
2. Waiting and Journeying – December 4 – December 10
3. Joy and Sorrow – December 11 – December 17
4. Arriving and Hoping – December 18 – December 24
We're excited to see the final product. We're praying as we go along of course--praying for the writers, praying for the process of preparation, for the design and printing, and for folks who will be reading it throughout Advent.
|Oskar Kokoschka, "Annunciation"|
NOTE TO WRITERS AT ALL SAINTS ANGLICAN
As you begin ruminating on your essay, I want to share with you a few thoughts. I don't underestimate how difficult it is to write a good reflection, so please know that we are committed to praying for you and to encouraging you in this process.
Some of these thoughts may be familiar to you, others perhaps not.
1. The first thing to aim for is concrete writing. Make your reflection as concrete as possible. Avoid abstractions, as tempting as they might be.
For example, "I hate waiting at stop lights" is concrete.
"The Christian life is about waiting" is abstract.
If you're looking for some inspiration, check out Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas. It's an excellent model for a devotional.
2. Related to this, look for robust, particular imagery rather than general one.
This is a general statement of the same reality: "Light and dark are themes in Scripture and they're really important."
True, but, nyeah, uninspiring; and, worst of all, completely forgettable.
The more particular you allow your reflection to be, the more universal it will become for the rest of us. Use vivid stories. Play with strong metaphors. Keep it "earthy." Let it all arise out of the text and out of your response to the text.
3. In that light, allow your essay to be a personal, affective wrestling with the theme. Try to move away from a cognitive exercise exclusively. Instead of standing outside of text, stand inside of it, feeling its tensions, asking questions of it that perhaps you've yet to ask, probing, sensing, following it down into its mystery. Understand the text well, yes.
4. Lastly, try to avoid "preachy" language--the shoulds and oughts and the invisible, sneaky "three points." Our reflections aren't intended to result in a sermon. They're intended to be an invitation for readers to explore the complex mystery of Christ's incarnation. Allow your study or exegesis of the texts to form the backdrop instead of foreground of your reflection.
5. And do give yourself permission not to have to resolve any tension or question by the end of your reflection. It's ok for us as readers to be prodded to think and feel deeper. It's good for our personal and spiritual health to wrestle more deeply with the implications of Advent in our own lives. We'll be better for it--and we'll also probably remember it long after we've read your piece.
That's it for now. We have every confidence that the final product, because of the Spirit's help, will result "in the glorification of God and the sanctification of his people," to quote to Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.
Word count limit is 300-500.
The deadline is October 28.
We'll send a few friendly reminder emails along the way. If you're not able to get us the reflection by the 28th, we'll have to move on without it. We're working with tight deadlines and we need time to edit, lay out the design, send to the printers and place it in the narthex on the first Sunday of Advent.
If we think your piece might need a little gentle editing, we'll let you know straightaway.
We trust that the Spirit of Christ will aid and illumine you in this task. As you listen to his voice, jot impressions down, scribble down the phrases the pop to mind, prayerfully discern what it is that Christ would have you say to his people. And do enjoy the process as much as possible.
Praise God for your faithful service to his church.
David for Tanner and the Advent Devotional Team
|Jim Janknegt, "Joyful Mystery #1: Annunciation"|