What the World Cup can Teach us About Advent (and Vice Versa)

Most of us will be familiar with Archimedes’ famous saying: 

“Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world”

Fewer will be familiar with the similar Church of England phrase: 

“Give us an event significant enough and a building in which to host it and we will evangelize the world”

Whatever your opinion on the missional benefits of football - it is spectacular to see how churches are willing to adapt and accommodate this global festival. The world cup shows just how willing and capable we are at disrupting our plans to make space for an event (whether for mission or entertainment - I do not yet know).

The world cup, it seems, has easily breached the liturgical rhythm of Advent. To some, allowing this is a sacred duty and to others it is an abomination. 

It teaches me about the heart of Advent, which is a willingness to be disrupted by the presence of God. 

Advent remembers Mary’s willingness to make space for God’s disruptive presence in her own body. Advent remembers Simeon’s capacity to be surprised by the appearance of God’s salvation in the most unexpected form of a baby. And, like Jesus - we too should be willing to be moved to be present in non-liturgical spaces.

We all agree that cultural phenomena and preaching the gospel go hand in hand. Think of Jesus enjoying a meal, or Paul preaching in the Areopagus - and this is no less true than an event like the world cup. 

Nevertheless, as good an opportunity as the world cup is - I can’t help but wonder what aspects of culture we are failing to leverage. Are we willing to radically disrupt our church schedule to spend time with the cripplingly lonely? Are we willing to re-orient the beauty of our liturgy to reach the hidden millions who spend hours looking at a screen?

We are all busy. Our churches are stuffed full of plans and prayer, strategy and worship. Maybe Jesus is calling us to be a little emptier, a little poorer, a little more spacious. A little more hopeful that the ordinary is as useful as the extraordinary. The world cup gestures to the capacity for Advent to disrupt our lives. Growing churches may mean we have to tell people about Jesus in the places we least expect to find him.

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