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Peace cranes for Advent


Advent is a traditional time of waiting and longing and hoping. Our Old Testament readings remind us how the Hebrew people waited for their coming Messiah, holding on to their prophets' words of hope even as their world crumbled around them. And our New Testament readings remind us how God finally fulfilled their longings in the birth of Jesus. They point us toward the day when he will return and set the world right once and for all (if you haven't listened yet, David Griffin preached an absolute killer sermon on this last week).

Waiting and longing and hoping. Holding onto hope even as the world crumbles. Looking toward the day when all will be set right. These Advent themes hold deep resonance for us in a pandemic year.

But sometimes, to hold onto hope, we need to give our hands something to do and our eyes something to see. That's where this year's peace cranes come in: folding instructions. These cranes were the brilliant idea of Kim McKnight, a member of our congregation with a knack for noticing and bringing beauty in everyday things (say hi to her on Zoom after the service this week!). You'll see Kim's origami cranes made from recycled grocery bags adorning her floral arrangements in the church on Sunday. And I hope you'll consider folding your own, either to decorate the chapel or your homes this Advent. I plan to place mine around my advent wreath.

The act of folding paper is calming and restful. You can use the folding as an act of prayer. Here are a few ideas:

  • Write your fears, griefs, hopes, or longings onto your paper. Then fold them into your crane as an act of trust that God is securely enfolding all these things into his good purposes.

  • Pray for the world as you fold. Each crane can be its own prayer for a country, an issue, a neighbor, or the most vulnerable: the hungry, the poor, the sick and dying, the grieving, the lonely, the homeless, the stranger.

  • Listen to Beth's Advent playlist as you fold as a time to simply quiet your mind and body. (This playlist is like a whole Advent journey from longing to hope . . . so good!)

I have already heard from several of you about how this simple practice of folding has impacted you. One wrote: "When I fold, I pray that we will use our knowledge for good and not harm, that children around the world will be protected from violence, sickness and fear. It’s a good time to pray for peace. A good time to contemplate the Prince of Peace who is the answer to my prayers." Others called the process "strangely cathartic" and "very relaxing." We all need more of that, don't we?

But this is an outreach blog, not a contemplative prayer what does this have to do with outreach? For one, I strongly believe healthy outreach stems from a life of prayer and rest, and that a bit of contemplative paper folding may very well equip us love our neighbors better. But beyond that, peace cranes have long been a symbol of redemption that has brought healing and meaning to people after horrific violence. As we fold, we are stepping into this redemptive global tradition. We are remembering that all is tragically wrong in the world. And we are placing our hopes in our true Peace Crane, the Prince of Peace, the one whose birth and return and final redemption we anticipate in Advent.


The peace crane tradition began in the aftermath of Hiroshima. A peace crane was even welded from the debris of the World Trade Center after 9/11. You can read about both stories in this short National Geographic article. There's also a wonderful children's book about Sadako Sasaki, the Japanese girl who began folding cranes after WWII, which is available to check out in Arlington Public Libraries.

I'd also encourage you to watch this powerful video produced by our friends at L'Arche about the healing role of peace cranes in the aftermath of violence against people with disabilities. (Warning: this video is not appropriate for young children -- or you may need to fast forward through a few parts. And be prepared to weep.)

Are you folding peace cranes? How's it going? Send me an email; I'd love to hear from you!


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