Cajun Christmas Tree
Cajun Christmas Tree

Welcome to the Advent 4 Preacher Party!  We are up to our clergy collars in living nativities, carol sings, Christmas Eve tweaking, and next-few-weeks’-sermons peeking.

How are you doing?

I wish for you a good-natured Governing Board (of whatever kind), an out-of-town trip for your chief church antagonist, and a few days free of pastoral care emergencies. Be cheered by the promise — soon and very soon — of couch naps, a massage, chocolate, &/or whatever else says self-care to you.

Meanwhile, there’s yet a purple candle to light and a corresponding sermon to write.

How are you doing? (repetition intentional)

I’m so glad you stopped by the party today. Please introduce yourself if you are a first-timer. Feel free to offer Christmas goodies and words of encouragement for the weary among us. We love humor and snacks and ideas for children’s worship. Whatever you have to offer,  your gift is welcome.

Let’s party like Christmas is nigh!

104 thoughts on “11th Hour Preacher Party: Purple, Purple, Pink, Purple Edition

  1. Howdy! We’ve been doing an Advent based on the names listed in Isaiah 9: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. I’ve been off both the RCL and the NL until this week, when I’m doing the Matthew passage from the NL paired with the one from last week (I think), Isaiah 42:1-9. I’m not sure how I’m going to connect them, other than perhaps with an exploration of Joseph’s character in how he planned to treat Mary, even before the angel told him what was really going on. I’m hoping when I wake up in the morning I’ll have a little more clear idea.

    Like

      1. I’ve always liked old Joseph. He reminds me of my own dad–he does the right thing, even when it’s inconvenient, even when it costs him. It occurred to me last night that I really will not have to do a terribly long sermon; we have a special musical piece at the beginning of the service, Advent candle lighting, and then six (!) baptisms–which is a long and involved process since we immerse. I’m thinking this morning about Jesus as “Prince of Peace”–when he often contradicted that in his words and actions–and how perhaps he (and we) learn how to live as Prince (and people) of peace from his adoptive father. Still thinking, and still not entirely sure. (And when I got out to the church this morning, the neighbors were grilling hamburgers, so now I’m distracted by that…)

        Like

  2. All our candles are blue, until Christmas Eve when they switch to white. 😉

    I’m on the NL, so Matthew…I have been pondering a discussion from the NL Facebook group this week about the names–that Joseph is told to name the child Jesus, because the prophet said there would be a child called Emmanuel. I think I’m going to play with the fact that God saves by being with us…and tie that to the I’ll Ride With You hashtag after this week’s terrorism in Australia.

    We also have our Longest Night service in the evening, but I’ve decided to use poetry and to tell the story of the Norwegian town that has been in shadow until the installation of some mirrors that cast light on the town square (thanks KZJ for linking it). People really just want to hear the harpist, not me. 🙂

    I have a full Saturday morning of appointments–eye doctor, haircut (hallelujah), christmas mani-pedi (double hallelujah). I’ll be back in the afternoon hopefully ready to write.

    I have no treats to share, but I do have a large selection of tea and hot cocoa… 🙂 OH! and spiced nuts (almonds and pecans) from the Christkindlemarket. I almost forgot. Feel free to warm them a bit and enjoy.

    Like

    1. OK, then, for you and the other blue Advent Revs, it’s the Blue, Blue, Blue, Blue edition. Sounds a little like an Elvis song! 🙂

      Your Longest Night service sounds so beautiful. So does Advent 4. And your Saturday morning sounds positively heavenly!

      Do check in later and let us know how you are doing, Teri.

      Like

  3. Fourth Advent I continue my work on Mary as a prophet. My blogpost is getting even more traffic than usual (it’s featured on textweek.com). Thought I’d share it to bolster all of us who see Mary as more than an unreachable figure on a pedestal. While you read it, have some See’s chocolates (I bought a few extra when I went in to buy staff Christmas gifts). Help yourself! Anne+
    http://sacredstory.org/2012/12/21/the-song-of-mary/

    Like

  4. Good morning. This Sunday, we have our all age Nativity service. Unrehearsed, anyone who wants to can play a part, reading and/or dressing up! Should be fun.
    But first, I’m off to bag pack at the local supermarket to raise funds for Girl Guides.

    Like

    1. We’re doing an all-age unrehearsed nativity here too [really hope everyone enjoys it]. Hope all our re-tellings of the story bring insight and hope.

      Tomorrow night is the ‘Big Sing’ – a carol concert for all in the community – for those who associate with one of the churches in the town and those who don’t – all are welcome. Just need to write a blessing for that one.

      I have a ‘time of quiet’ on Monday but am unashamedly using prayers and reflections from the ‘Candles and Conifers’ book.

      Like

  5. I minister in an outer suburb of Sydney, because of the siege in Sydney earlier this week, then Pakistan school shooting and now Cairns, I am starting with Lament tomorrow. then singing O come, O Come Emmanuel.
    we are in the NL, so Matthew 1, but I am extending it slightly to include vv1, 16-25, so I can mention the genealogy. also including Mary’s song from Luke, as we haven’t had it this year.
    the current plan is Matt1, thinking about what we want for Christmas; then a skit from Candles and Conifers [pp208-210] then Mary’s Song and sermon part 2 – what Jesus brings us.
    Hopefully it all fits together.
    anyway that is the outline, now I need to write some actual words – it is already Saturday evening here.

    Like

  6. Hello and Greetings all! I’m a newcomer to this party, yet feel welcome by all that we have in common in relation to wearing a clergy collar. I’m also up to the aforementioned collar in sermons, and indeed managing and engaging with significant antagonists. But today is a party day as my family will arrive and later we’ll begin to ‘deck the halls’, at last.

    I work in a city centre church in Cambridge, England; a new post that I took up last August. I hope that you will celebrate with us in the Church of England at the appointment of our first female Bishop, which is the culmination of a theological and synodical journey begun many years ago….

    Blessings to all!

    Susan

    Like

    1. welcome!
      It always seems like the antagonists come out of the woodwork during busy seasons, doesn’t it? much like family…holidays bring out the worst in some. May you keep your head above water, and find peace and joy!

      Like

  7. I seem to be doing a really good job getting organized this year – cleaning, baking, preparing…but I seem to lack any ounce of creative juice for sermon writing. Usually by this time I am on a roll with a theme that has formed all of Advent and I’m bringing it to it’s final point for Advent 4 and then taking it in a new direction for Christmas. But not this year. I have nothing. Well, not nothing, but almost. I think I am going to talk about Mary, the mother tomorrow. I think I am going to go through a list of all the ways she is known in Christian tradition – but not sure what my point will be when I’m done with the list, probably something about being called by God in surprising ways? And, for Christmas Eve I think I am going to revise a sermon idea from 2005, where in I reflect back on Christmas’ past as a way for looking forward to the year ahead – how God is always doing something new and unexpected….

    In the meantime I have a rehearsal today for the concert of Lessons and Carols tomorrow night – a local all female chorus sings and members of the church read, but it’s not a worship service, it’s a concert for the chorus and they charge for tickets. It’s a bit odd to play the part of the officiant, at least for me it is. Still its a gorgeous concert.

    Like

    1. Hello, Terri!

      I wonder what your own Christmas work — at home and in the community — might have to do with Mary, the mother, and being called by God in surprising ways.

      I’ve been toying with not doing a Christmas Eve homily at all, but your idea of reflecting back and looking forward inspires me to reconsider that.

      Like

  8. The children and teenagers are doing their nativity tomorrow so all I need to do is the thanks and Benediction. That is giving me a bit of space to prepare the Christmas eve and morning services. The early Christmas eve service is started as is the Christmas morning service but I haven’t started on the midnight service yet.
    So of course I have been baking scones this morning rather than writing them (or tidying up ready for my parents arriving tomorrow)
    cheese scones or cherry scones are coming out the oven now if you want any

    Like

  9. I am really impressed by your household, Terri. Mine is total chaos. I am hoping to see the living room rug by the end of the day.

    First, however: grading final exams for the college class I teach. I had expected to make major progress on those yesterday right after the final itself (grades due Monday), but was waylaid, first by a student who wanted to tell me at length and in detail that I havè been grading her unfairly all semester, and then by another whose sister’s terrible death which he witnessed four years ago has hit him full force. I was so exhausted by the time I finished talking with him that I could barely drive home.

    But I did outline a sermon late last night. “Are We There Yet?” talks about Mary and Joseph on the journey and identifies them as pilgrims, wondering whether they took the time to be attentive and soak up all the details of their adventure to remember later, and urges my folks to let go of the hurry and anxiety of the next few days and savor the journey. I think I will be preaching from the outline tomorrow.

    Now: papers.

    Like

    1. Oh dear. Robin. Do pace yourself, physically and emotionally.

      Perhaps it’s the curse of the introvert that someone can do all the right things, so very innocently, to suck the energy right out. Or perhaps it’s the nature of the vocation.

      Good word: “Let go of the worry and anxiety and savor … “

      Like

      1. Feeling much better. One of my students wrote me a note at the end ôf his exam that I was a great teacher! It’s probably awful that I can be swayed so easily but hey, I’ll take it.

        Like

    2. Robin, last year, when I was under tremendous stress, I did zero baking and little house cleaning. It was all I could do to get through the season and write a couple of sermons. This year, as I begin to feel better after ten weeks of struggling with reflux, I find I have more energy and a desire to bake and clean. Sermon writing, not so much. Go figure. Every year is a different year. I pray that this time of unease settles.

      As to the student who wants to blame YOU for her poor grades, well, Family Systems theory reminds us to always look at ourselves first – as she should be doing instead of blaming you or others. And for you, a review of your responses to her is a healthy approach, but her defining who you are or what kind of teacher you are, is not her job. I’m glad you have received other more constructive and positive comments to balance out this one. Somewhere in there is the truth about you are as a teacher – honest, helpful, instructive, inspiring, formative – but students are still responsible for themselves and their work.

      Like

  10. I’ve written a lot this week. First, there’s my sermon from yesterday on the RCL Psalm for this Sunday (a lunch service) at http://www.liascholl.com/advent-lament-psalmist-knows/

    I wrote a piece at Question the Text about the RCL Mary texts: http://www.questionthetext.org/2014/12/15/mary-actualized-mature-and-with-agency/ (that made TextWeek! yay!)

    And tomorrow I’m preaching the NL text on Joseph, and thinking about him as a man who threw off his privilege in order to bring about justice in the world…

    Like

  11. Thanks for sharing, everyone. I just finished preparing for a funeral on Monday (suicide) and so my heart and mind are in that tender place of proclaiming the resurrection in the strongest, gentlest words I can craft as well as making sure the family’s needs are cared for.

    For tomorrow’s sermon I was planning to use this video: http://www.giving101.org/white-envelope-project/ framed in a brief spoken message…I chose it because we’re all feeling a little frantic about getting everything done, today is the Big Shopping Day and I kept hearing all week about folks looking for that one perfect elusive gift and wearing themselves out. I’m not sure how it will relate, or if it will at all, to the texts (2 Samuel 7:1–11, 16 and Luke 1:26–55). I may just show it and then have the children provide white envelopes as we sing.

    To be honest, I’m okay with letting that (and the prayers and singing) preach for me tomorrow, and moving on to the Christmas reflection I need to prepare! I’m just starting to think about it and now I’ll think while I bake the fruitcake I was going to make earlier this week…

    Like

  12. Good morning! I have coffee cake to share, made from scratch … yesterday. Still good, though. My daughter got home from Smith College on the train late Thursday night/early Friday morning, and we were up late last night sitting vigil while she finished her last project, due at midnight. As she put it, “Third semester of college: check!”
    She is sleeping the sleep of the justified while I ponder the Annunciation and her high school friend who is already a mom, not married to the father of the baby, but raising the child with him. It’s a reminder to me that Mary’s acceptance of God’s call wasn’t safe in the world’s terms, not what her family might have wanted, raising the eyebrows of friends and neighbors, causing talk, etc. I have an array of ideas and entry points to the idea that God’s love is embodied and our expression of it must also be embodied. Last week I preached without a manuscript, and I would like to try that again, but admittedly I have a less clear sense of where I’m going this week.
    There’s a bit of pre-Christmas prep that needs to be done, including a trip to an undisclosed location (in case kathrynzj checks in here, ahem) and to Wegman’s, but I’m waiting for our girl to wake up before I go. So, this afternoon. 😉

    Like

  13. Good morning preachers and friends – I am doing a great job of NOT writing this morning – elliptical, check, breakfast, check, laundry, check, 20 minutes staring at a candle and reading Brennan Manning from Watch for the Light, check. I have two “reflections” to write – one for a dear woman of the parish who died suddenly last week while in the hospital for blood clots due to chemo treatment for a recurrence of cancer, and the other for our Longest Night service, which will actually be on Monday. I am not feeling of much use – today is the birthday of the father of my children, but he is still sleeping over in his apartment down the street. We are in a very strange limbo land. I have spent 30 of his birthdays with him, and I am still not used to this new place. I want to make the season a joyful one for our three girls, but I am struggling.
    I’m going with Mary’s song, and have a title “It’s Not Fair” for the Longest Night service – with all the injustice around the shooting here in Cleveland, and Ferguson, and NYC, and Sydney, and everywhere, i want to not only focus on the individual griefs but our larger sense of grief and loss and the unfairness of it all. I have done one of these every year since I started parish ministry, so I have some good liturgy, and snagged a couple of our best lay readers, and a cellist from the Cleveland Orchestra who is also our lay leader and my friend. So, with or without my words, it will be ok (or so I am telling myself). The funeral will be harder, and the wedding on the 27th not easy either. I will get to breathe next Sunday, I think. As an associate, at least all I have to do on Christmas Eve is show up!
    I’ve not got much to share, except a tin of chocolates from a lovely parishioner, but I need help eating those, so dive in! Blessings to all.

    Like

    1. Chocolate is always good. I’ll have two, please!

      There is so much that is not fair, right? That will be a place where you will connect with so many in your congregation.

      And, it’s really not fair that there is no roadmap for these strange limbo land places when “forever” relationships go elsewhere. Especially at Christmas. Especially when you want joy for your kids. Prayers for strength and peace as you navigate these tough places, MumPastor.

      Like

  14. Hi ..I’m a newcomer to this party and this very inspirational group. I have chocolate chip bran muffins in the oven, and a crock pot of spiced apple juice slowly warming. Come on over! Food for body and soul during these short and very full days. This advent season has been an absolute delight for me with the congregation I serve, we have been playing a game called ‘angels and earthlings’. (see here for how to play https://cedarunitedchurch.wordpress.com/2014/11/03/angels-and-earthlings/) The faces of those as they secretly give and joyously, openly receive has warmed my heart. In a time of scarce resources and many wounded hearts, there is joy, peace and abundance. May each of you also receive those blessings …. Paula

    Like

    1. Welcome, Paula! So happy you are here and finding inspiration and, I hope, good company for the journey.

      Thank you for sharing a fun game that your congregation has embraced this Advent season.

      Chocolate chip bran muffins are surely good for body and soul!

      Like

    2. Hi Paula-
      Who are the “earthlings” in this exchange? How are they chosen?
      Love the Angel Blessing posted in the followup blog.
      Thanks for sharing!

      Like

      1. Hi .. matching angels to earthlings is the fun part. I make a list of everyone who signs up to be an angel and use the names on that list to assign an earthling to every angel. Part of the delight is watching the amazement unfold as the angels (thinking they are in giving mode) discover that they are also earthlings and receiving great blessings!

        Like

  15. This is the pulpit supply preacher’s slow season, so I’m bringing the goodies! Advent Open House tomorrow at the parsonage for hubby’s congregation. We have peanut brittle, pecan toffee, gingerbread cookies, fudge (no nuts), veggies with dip, lemonade and iced tea. I’m hoping to make some pecan pralines, but candy making has to happen without any interruptions, which is a hard thing to come bay around here. Please, there’s plenty; help yourselves.

    Like

  16. Hi. Just flew into Milwaukee via Charlottesville and boy are my arms tired! Lol. No really I did. Have some good ideas for my sermon tomorrow, but was hoping for some inspiration. Where is everyone? Ok, pardon me I scrolled down and there are some comments. Blessed Christmas all.

    Like

  17. Since we are doing Lessons and Carols tomorrow with no sermon, I can work a bit on Christmas Eve. Last week, though, I skipped forward to Mary. My most curmudgeonly traditionalist said, “Now that was a sermon worth listening to.” Rare! Wish I could figure out how to post it!

    Like

    1. Don’t you just love it, Gloria? Those are the little surprises that keep us going, right?

      Do you have a blog? I’m sure there are other ways, but that’s how I post my sermons, when I do post them. Anyone have other ideas?

      Like

  18. It’s been a week here. ALL of us have been sick with strep and/or sinus infections. The boys were home from school all week, and my DH home from work for 4 days, which is unheard of. Today is the first day I’ve felt marginally human, so I am off to the church to write about Joseph, and print bulletins, and check the poinsettias which have not been watered this week, and which I hope are still living. Prayers appreciated!

    Like

    1. I feel you on the sick household. Our oldest has had 4 different things since Thanksgiving; the youngest spent 6 days with the “flu” (tested negative, felt very flu like). Daddy is super stressed, and I am weary. Prayers for wellness for all of you.

      Like

  19. As I read the comments, I was reminded of one of my favorite paintings–The Longest Road. You’ll find it here

    I’m struck by four phrases that Gabriel addresses to Mary–“favored one, the Lord is with you, do not be afraid, you have found favor” and I’m wondering what life might look like if we greeted and treated those we meet in the alleys and side-streets of our world in such a way. What would the world be like if if people saw one another as favored? Just a thought.

    Like

  20. Baked fruitcake this week. You’re welcome to some. I’ve been to town for supplies for the Longest Night service for late afternoon today. In a few minutes I will run down to the church to set up the altar space for that. Mulling over tomorrow all the while. A friend shared the following video earlier today…some thoughts about Mary.

    Ellis Paul – “Mary, Mary” Official Music Video

    Like

  21. I’m home from my eye-doctor-haircut-nail-salon-pet-store extravaganza, with new contacts (hooray–the others were causing irritation I couldn’t keep living with), shorter hair, sparkly nails, and cat food to tide over the fur monsters for at least a few weeks. The schedule worked out smoothly until I tried to get home at the end and discovered that EVERY PERSON IN TOWN was driving on the same road I needed to drive on. I always say I don’t like to go out much on Saturdays because of the shopping traffic, but I’d forgotten just how bad the last Saturday before Christmas could be. It’s crazy out there.

    I’ve had lunch and now I’m pondering an inspirational nap…mainly because the cats are snuggled up next to/on me, and they’re all warm and purry. Maybe just half an hour, while I let my subconscious think a little more about Matthew?

    Though, for a change, i actually do have an idea for the beginning. Which hopefully means that once I do start writing, it’ll happen quicker than most Saturdays!

    Like

  22. Feeling better now that poinsettias are watered (with only one looking like it can’t be salvaged), bulletins printed, and sermon thoughts coming together. Now to tackle the house and at least get the Christmas tree up!

    Like

  23. Went back to David Lose. A variation on his theme. Imagining the Gabriels and the Marys in the congregation–what giving and receiving that acknowledgment and affirmation might feel like–“Greetings favored one,” said the bicycle cop to the person sleeping on a bench at Robison park” and then bent over and handed her a sandwich and a cup of coffee.”

    Like

  24. I am a first timer to the 11th hour party, and I have to say, I couldn’t be more out of sermon writing mode than I am currently. But its not because of anything negative; my husband is home after 2 weeks gone on military duty, my kids are happy and laughing as they play with the new kitten, and I really don’t want to share this time. Le sigh….. Love tomorrow’s lectionary text, but I really want to magnify the Lord tonight by spending time with my family. HELP!

    Like

  25. home from worship, ad libbed much of the sermon – sometimes I wonder why I write it out.

    seemed well received, though a cryptic comment from one person.

    Like

  26. Very late start this week, as I was distracted by family stuff and a Longest Night service I am leading at my home church tomorrow afternoon (not where I am preaching weekly).

    I think I’m done with the sermon, but I’m about 500 words shy of my usual length. Why do the short ones never naturally occur on a communion Sunday?

    Like

  27. Our choir is leading worship with a cantata tomorrow, and hubby is preaching a short sermon. I just have prayers to write, so I’m working ahead to write the Christmas eve sermon. I actually wrapped presents today. I think that’s a first for us to have family gifts done this early. It feels wonderful. I am enjoying reading through the sermons y’all have completed. I so appreciate the gift of hearing others’ words of proclamation; good for the soul. My title for Christmas eve is, “Light in the dark places”, of which there have been plenty this year, and especially of late. Blessings sisters, as we all work to offer words of hope in our congregations, fill our family time with love, and send prayers of peace to all the world.

    Like

  28. I’m fighting a cold/cough that doesn’t want to just go away. The good news is that I actually have a voice which was not true earlier in the week.

    I’ve got Sunday in hand and my kid discovered a church story that she told me because she saw I had moved one of my nativity sets. I may end up with some ruffled feathers or I may not have anything at all come from it. I certainly prefer knowing the story to being blindsided. An interesting spot to be in when the stories themselves have warm memories for me but may stir up “stuff” for others. Preaching is always an interesting gig!

    I started getting more serious about Christmas Eve and realized that for my folks I may need to consider the kind of message that I would consider for a “Longest Night” service due to the very recent and devastating diagnoses of key people in my church. It’s a little different this year with such hard news that impacts the church in dramatic ways. Balancing their needs with the recognition that we’ll have folks that “walk-in” and tailoring the message in such a way to speak to both will be tricky but I think necessary. I’m glad Christmas is later in the week to give me some time to wrestle with my thoughts on which way to go.

    Like

    1. it’s so tricky to know what to do about christmas eve…in my last church, it was 500 people over the course of the night, about 200 of them regulars and the rest either family/friends from out of town or people just looking for a place for Christmas Eve. This church is almost the opposite: Christmas Eve attendance is about the same as a normal Sunday, except only maybe 15% of the people are my regulars, and the rest are one-timers. The last pastor describes it as “some churches are holiday receivers, and some are senders…we’re senders.” Our people travel, or have other family commitments of various kinds, so very few will be here on the 24th. I have no idea who or what most of the people who come are. So I hear the “traditions” from the 5-10 people who do come, and basically just do that, and tell the story, and hope for the best.
      Which means I don’t need to write a sermon for Wednesday, so I’ll be praying for you instead!

      Like

    2. Prayers, Sarah, for your cold and cough to be healed quickly, and that your voice holds out, and that your congregation will know the strong presence of Christ in the midst of such sadness. Also, may there be rest!

      Like

  29. An hour of getting off the internet and voila: a sermon. It’s much different than how I normally preach–I rarely use illustrations in this way, but when I came across the story (I think in the NL Facebook group?) I knew it needed to be told. And it sparked in my memory more stories that needed to be told. I don’t know that I’ve ever written a sermon like this before, so we’ll see how it goes.

    Just as I pushed “save” I thought “wait…what’s the hymn after the sermon again?” A quick glance at my bulletin files told me it was “O Little Town of Bethlehem”…I think early in the week I had intended to say more about how in Matthew, Joseph and Mary live in Bethlehem, and something about small towns, etc. I debated changing it by just making an announcement. Then I checked the words, and lo and behold, the fourth verse is all about Christ being present in us. oh yes. Thanks Holy Spirit!

    Now to finish the prayers…by which I mean start the prayers, of course.

    Like

    1. That is my very favorite verse of “O Little Town,” which is one of my favorite Christmas carols. I love the lyrics and the theology of it.

      Like

  30. I may be too late to the party to share much of value, but here’s the sermon I pushed through to finish last night, so I could concentrate today on the dinner party we were giving tonight. http://pastorsings.com/2014/12/20/according-to-your-word-sermon-on-luke-126-38-advent-4b/ There is some lovely pumpkin bread pudding with whipped cream and caramel sauce left, if anyone needs something sweet. Tomorrow we host a new members brunch, take the youth caroling, and hold our first-ever Longest Night service. So glad Monday is a rest day!

    Like

  31. Oh my goodness! I put my computer on the coffee table, wrapped up in a quilt and put my head down “for just a minute,” and just woke up. Not the most energetic party hostess here. Thanks for keeping it going.

    I’m sitting here in the middle of the night looking back over each of these posts and praying for each of you. I’m giving thanks for the gift of each of you.

    May the hope, peace, joy and love of Christ be born in you, your beloveds, and those you serve.

    Like

We hope you'll join the conversation!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s