imageDo you know where the Advent candles are? Do you have a wreath-lighting liturgy ready? Have you changed the colours in the sanctuary?Are you ready for Advent?

Lord knows how badly we need the Advent themes of hope, light, love and joy in all our communities.

Whether you’re preaching a message of hope from the RCL readings or re-discovering the law in the NL readings, or whether you’re struggling to say anything at all that speaks into the darkness and pain of our world, we invite you to struggle in community here.

Do take a look at the blog posts from earlier in the week on the NL and RCL, ask questions, share resources, as, in company, we find the words God speaks into our mess today. Wnether your sermon is done or whether it’s being elusive, we’ll help each other to make plain the glimmer of hope and light that is God in our midst.

May you find time and space in your life to wait on God this Advent.

67 thoughts on “11th Hour Preacher’s Party: Advent Hope Edition

  1. Home from a family funeral this morning, not leading worship tomorrow. Tomorrow is a parish service, so only one service instead of two. I was thinking of using a service in the lessons and carols style, that goes through the church year. When my father in law died earlier this week, I sent off the liturgy to a retired minister in the parish, who had offered to lead worship if I wanted.
    We are not sure if we will be at worship, see how we feel in the morning.
    Hope the sermon fairy is good to you all,

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    1. Take the time you need. If you don’t take it now it will be hard to take it till the new year. Taking time will also model good self care for the congregation. My prayers are with you as you decide what to do tomorrow and as you grieve!

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  2. Sort of off the hook, sermon wise. We are doing a hanging of the greens for much of the service. It’s the only way the sanctuary will get decorated. May more come between now and Christmas but this will at least get the trees out and wreaths up, etc. I have no idea where the advent wreath is but I did find the advent candles when getting candles out for All Saints. I will need to have a small reflection on the Josiah text. I don’t have much of an idea about what that will be. I am not worried, though. Hope seems to be the need spoken, regardless of whether or how well it fits in with this text. I believe that I can articulate moments of hope from that story and the fact that the hoped for results didn’t last more than a few generations seems to fit well with today’s world. That is a bleaker pronouncement of hope but more realistic and maybe more useful because of it.

    At any rate, I am killing time now, waiting to take Boy Wonder to basketball practice (he is a 6th grade starter on the 7th grade team at his middle school! – sorry for the mom brag) and then meet my dad for breakfast at the diner before he drives back home. After that, I will go to the church to drag the boxes of Christmas decorations to the sanctuary and find the candles again.

    Good luck to all! There is plenty of turkey, etc. left in the fridge. Please help yourself.

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    1. Lynn, I wish other people would read this. A virtual friend is upset because he planned a church decorating evening on Friday, and only he and his family showed up. Doing it as a part of worship makes a lot of sense to me.

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  3. Trying to wake up, I can offer another cup of Holiday Blend, Sprouts own label coffee. Not sure of the flavoring, but good and strong. I do have a slice of pumpkin or sour cream apple pie for those who haven’t had enough.

    The first Sunday of Advent right after Thanksgiving is a challenge. Most of the sanctuary is ready. The Advent candles are out, on a small table, with a blue cloth. I bought artificial greens to wrap around them, but am wondering of the impact of an unadorned “wreath” for this week. The Worship and Music Team has agreed to add each week – next the Nativity scene, the 3rd greens in the sanctuary, and the 4th a bare tree, to be decorated after. We are processing an Advent banner each week. The banners will be added the next week to the sanctuary wall.

    I’m feeling decision fatigue – first Advent at CLC, first December in Santa Fe. So much new, so much unknown. This is my ninth year of Advent as a pastor, but still….

    Earlier in the week I did sermon prep, which I can’t remember now. Holy Spirit come!

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    1. Oh every new church has felt like my first for major festival Sunday’s. Yet I also think it’s a great opportunity to do something a bit different because no one can say well you didn’t do it that way last year. You might hear we don’t do it that way here but I think that’s an educational moment that’s more readily accepted than a pattern you yourself created and become Stuck in.

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  4. I’m at home alone – the oldest child is off working on sets for the Advent Dessert Theater, and the younger two on the way back from Michigan with their dad. Lots to ponder for me this Advent, as my partner of 31 years and I will dissolve our marriage in the new year. It’s been a long painful time coming, about 6 years, but it is still too much to take in at times.
    I am using an old sermon tomorrow that I actually wrote in seminary in 2000, polishing and revising to fit 2015. I can’t seem to get my mind on it, though. The girls arrive in 3 hours, so I need to get moving. It’s called Look Up, and is based on the Luke text with all the chaos. Seems to fit the world today.
    I’d welcome any words of advice on moving on and uncoupling, from those who have been there. Got the book. In counseling. Have a great support network. But feel like I am living in a gray fog, which is matched by the November weather here in NE Ohio.

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    1. Don’t have any words of advice or even any chocolate pie (because I finished that off yesterday). But you do have my prayers and if you ever need an extra set of ears I’m here.

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  5. Have spray-painted a length of plastic chain to look metal and wooden decorations to look like money boxes, am decoupaging mortgages and ledgers onto wooden panels, and noodling on the best order for my sermon/conversation pieces… David gets called out by Nathan, Scrooge is visited by Marley, Paul reminds us that we need no longer be slaves to sins… followed by guided confession to name the chains we forge… and the hope that we have in Christ, the hope we offer as followers of Christ. Something like that.

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  6. I’m taking the “lift up your heads” Luke text as a contrast to our desire to hunker down and to keep the doors and windows and indeed the borders shut when there is distress among nations. What does it mean for us to abound in love for one another and for all? (The prayer from Thessalonians). In the face of so much anti-refugee rhetoric in our community newspaper I am a little nervous about the sermon, but also confident that this is a good word to speak into our suburban New Zealand community in this season.

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    1. If I were preaching the Luke text tomorrow, I would also focus on the “lift up your heads” phrase. In fact, I think repeating that phrase over and over until it starts to sink in might be all I would do. My congregation will be releived to know I’m not preaching tomorrow!

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  7. Everybody seems to have a lot going on at the moment – and I suppose that is reflective of the time of year and modern life. I was at the Christmas fair for 6 hours today and still need to finish tomorrow’s sermon but I think it is not too far from finished – well, that’s my excuse for taking an hour to put my feet up before I go back to it.
    I;ll glue felt figures for the school services while I sit down!
    be back later

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  8. I’ve got a beginning to a sermon on “be prepared” – how we prepare for the coming of Jesus, on Christmas and in the future. Trying to say something about how Advent reflection is a counter to the cultural busy-ness, but both of them seem to avoid the promises of signs and foreboding and execution of justice that will come when Jesus returns. With all that, how do we prepare for Jesus to come, when it might not be as peaceful as the nativity scenes depict? We prepare by showing love, as the Thess reading suggests, and here are some ways we can do that….

    At least, I think that’s where I’m going. Had an outline from earlier this week, but have had company nonstop from Thursday midday, and the most recent guests don’t leave until Sunday morning. So, hoping that my outline will work, and a sermon draft can be complete soon!

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  9. I’m not preaching this week or next. We do hanging of the greens tomorrow, and instead of a homily, I’m going to read the “O” Antiphons, with a brief explanation. After each Antiphon, we will sing the corresponding verse of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

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  10. My sermon is called “Are You Ready?” I will actually talk about Santa Claus. This is because this is the last Sunday of the month, and on those days, we do a family service, when the children do not go to Sunday School. We will also light the first Advent Candle, and the children will do the readings.

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  11. Leaning towards ‘surely the day is coming’… inspired by Feasting on the Word commentary on Jeremiah. Hope for the world, in the church and community and personally based on our experience of what God has done, is doing, and will do again. Now to find the stories to tell.

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  12. Our Advent theme is “The Road to Bethlehem.” This Sunday is supposed to be an introduction to the theme, and there will be a little meditation at the beginning from the perspective of an exile in Babylon. The Scripture is Isaiah 11:1-10. But I am having an awful time getting my mind around it. This week started with a snowstorm and the funeral of an elderly woman who’d been on a decline for several years. It ended with a holiday, an ice storm, and the funeral of a nine-day-old baby.

    We ordered a set of Advent candles last year, along with a new Christ candle, but then we found another set we’d already bought, so the candles we got last year were in a box in the office.

    I’m starting Advent a little burnt out. Five funerals since just before Halloween, and this last one was just awful. With all that, I’ve had to work four out of six of what were supposed to be my days off.

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    1. Wow, what a tough few weeks for you. Sounds like “the road to bethlehem” isn’t smooth or predictable, for you or your congregation!

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  13. On the NL here. Our Advent theme is “Giving Voice to God’s Promise” and each week has a different verb focus. This week is “listen”…so I’m supposed to be thinking about how we listen as a way of giving voice to the promise. That all sort of makes sense in my mind, except for the complete lack of a beginning.

    However…this week the city released the video of a police officer shooting a 17 year old boy in the street. And Black Friday was full of protesters who literally shut down shopping on Michigan Avenue, which some people are being ridiculous about. (they apparently really do care more about their stuff than people’s lives. and the Mag Mile shopping is almost all high-end stores, so…) I need to address these things, and I know they fit in the Josiah story somewhere, but so far all the things I’ve thought of have been not quite right, if you know what I mean. So I continue to ponder.

    I’ll be back to write tonight–I’m going to get off the internet for a few hours because reading the quotes from yesterday (things like “why can’t they protest in their own neighborhood?” i mean SRSLY…) have made me so angry that no good will come of it. I’ll pet the kitties, cook something form Blue Apron, drink tea, read a book, maybe take a nap, and come back around 8.

    I have mashed potatoes. I wouldn’t normally share them, but for you all…enjoy. 🙂

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    1. What do you have from Blue Apron to cook? I did the cavatelli mac and cheese for Thanksgiving. Thinking of the the cauliflower “steaks” tonight.

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  14. Thank you for hosting! I have beautiful Advent liturgy thanks to Martha Spong! And a new Advent hymn to sing. I am preaching last week’s Narrative Lectionary passage this week (Isaiah 5 & 11). Still have a long way to go on the sermon but it has been a good Thanksgiving break with the kids home. We have our Hanging of the Greens after church tomorrow too. Blessed Advent to all!

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  15. We hung our greens this morning. Actually, we keep it pretty simple with fresh wreaths and hurricane lamps in the windows. It’s always fun to hang out with our deacons. We also prepared all of our candles for Christmas eve with the bobeches. I think we made enough for every church in town. I have a beginning of a sermon, entitled “Raging Hope”. I am *hoping* that in the midst of attacks on Black Lives Matter protesters, the release of the dash cam video of the horrific shooting of Laquan McDonald in Chicago, the terrorist shooting of Planned Parenthood in Colorado, that we can engage Hope in a new and active way that rages with love, with action, with repentance, ….and that waiting isn’t passive but responsive with empowerment. We will see. I am at Panera right now, so if anybody needs a mid-afternoon coffee or pastry, let me know. xxxx

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  16. Decorating frenzy at home today. If I don’t get my trees up before the first Sunday in advent, they don’t go up. Both congregations decorate on the second Sunday in advent, so next Sunday will be busy. I’m wondering if a hanging of the greens will work with a much older congregation and somewhat limited mobility. I miss HoG services and would love to introduce it here. And I love the idea of adding decorations each week!. I may have to take stock of what decorations we put up and see if I can come up with a plan on how to do it for next year.

    I’m preaching on Josiah’s reforms but don’t have a clear idea yet. I discovered this is not a text that shows up in the RCL, so my people may not be familiar with the story. I may just tell the story in detail and let it speak for itself.

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  17. We got back home from Thanksgiving travels about an hour ago, and it is always SO GOOD to be home. I forced myself to write a sermon draft on Tuesday, and the “forced” part of it certainly shows. I’m off lectionary, and it’s a mishmash of Psalm 24, “Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates,” 1 Peter 2:4-10 (let yourselves be built into a spiritual house), and the last verse of “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Having typed all that out, the trouble might be that there is a wee bit too much going on in this sermon, huh? I’m trying to get at the idea of Advent as a time to prepare to welcome Jesus into our hearts, and doing a bit of house-cleaning in the preparation. But *my* heart, or maybe my head, is sort of uncomfortable with the “me and Jesus” direction that is taking, and I really want to talk about preparing our *collective* hearts for Jesus, but then that’s just one more thing in an already crowded sermon, not to mention that horrible run-on sentence there. Sorry. The draft is also sorely lacking in a beginning, which is likely the reason it flails around in the middle and the end. I’m thinking it might be time to trash it and start over.

    Pecan pie to share.

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  18. Hi. Sermon is done. It will be a dialog, something relatively underutilized at my parish. Here is the outline. Advent is a time of anticipation of the three comings of Jesus. First, we await when Jesus will come again. What are the signs. What should we do. Second, we await the celebration of Jesus’ birthday. What were the signs? What do we do to prepare our hearts? Third: does anyone know what the third coming of Jesus is that we are waiting for? Jesus comes to us every day. What are the signs. How do we watch for Jesus every day? Tell a story. What are your stories? Come, Lord Jesus. I don’ t have any idea how it will go. No children’s sermon today, but a big cross-gen “Welcome to Advent” Sunday School will follow. No time to be nervous about it all because I still have family here from Thanksgiving and I have a funeral this week also. What I’m really nervous about is the Christmas pageant. We haven’t started yet. Oh my.

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  19. Back home and thankful for a sustainable sermon. This wasn’t the plan…but I really wanted my children to see ocean and we took time for that and have been up since 5:30 am, and one sick child vomiting (all day Friday– confined to hotel, after throwing up twice…yikes). Fortunately made it home after 3 hour drive without incident. Glad to be home. So, now I need to figure out children’s story which may amount to speaking about Advent and waiting…marking time….ways we choose to mark time…birthdays, anniversaries, Advent calendars, keeping a journal, celebrating holidays, lighting a candle for each Sunday in Advent…etc. Not sure, need to think about it. And need to rework sermon…

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    1. I’m also using the idea of marking time, for the children’s sermon. I’ll ask the kids how they keep track of time and expect them to suggest clocks/watches/calendars. Other ideas I’ll make sure are heard: stopwatches, sunrise, paper chain countdown. I’m thinking I’ll also show them my Star Wars app, that has a countdown to the new movie’s release date 🙂 Then we’ll look at one of the DIY advent calendars I found online, and I’m sending them back to their seats with a list of a half dozen homemade advent calendar ideas (for their parents).

      Just outlining here in case anything resonates with you! Thanks for the reminder to also mention the candles on the Advent wreath!

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  20. A poem that I plan to use for tomorrow in sermon—It’s written by Macrina Wiederkehr.

    The Sacrament of Waiting
    by Macrina Wiederkehr

    Slowly
    she celebrated the sacrament of
    letting go.
    First she surrendered her green,
    then the orange, yellow, and red
    finally she let go of her brown.
    Shedding her last leaf
    she stood empty and silent, stripped bare.
    Leaning against the winter sky
    she began her vigil of trust.
    Shedding her last leaf
    she watched its journey to the ground.
    She stood in silence
    wearing the color of emptiness,
    her branches wondering;
    How do you give shade with so
    much gone?
    And then,
    the sacrament of waiting began,
    The sunrise and sunset watched
    with tenderness.
    Clothing her with silhouettes
    they kept her hope alive.
    They helped her understand that her vulnerability,
    her dependence and need,
    her emptiness,
    her readiness to receive
    were giving her a new kind of beauty.
    Every morning and every evening they stood in silence
    and celebrated together the sacrament of waiting.

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    1. I’m finally figuring out what I’m going to talk about. I was intrigued by the phrase in the Jeremiah passage, “Jerusalem will live in safety.” I was wondering, what exactly is “safety.” We live in a fear-filled world and create a false sense of safety all the time by putting up emotional walls, holding our true feelings and emotions inside of us, refusing to commit… and then also more tangibly, moving to places with low crime rates, increasing our homeland defense, buying guns, keeping the refugees out, etc. but if we are really honest with ourselves that is all just attempts to make ourselves feel safer but our world is unpredictable regardless.

      I think my theme for this Advent is to allow ourselves to become vulnerable, and to trust that God will provide the safety. Living in fear and worry does nothing to genuinely protect us from the violence of the world, but when we are vulnerable and real with one another, healing begins to happen and perhaps it is out of our vulnerability that safety is actually born.

      I was especially amazed that I stumbled upon the poem that Dee posted above, because for me it is EXACTLY what I am trying to say. The tree could not prevent itself from stripping down and being vulnerable, but in its vulnerability it discovered a renewed sense of beauty.

      Now to put it into a sermon.

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  21. For those that have been going through tough times lately, my thoughts, prayers and hope is for God’s love to continue to enfold and sustain you through the next days and weeks.

    For us, the Advent candles are out, the paraments are changed, the service is in readiness for the faithful few that will appear in the morning. I’m beginning my preaching through the year with John tomorrow. Beginning with 1;1-5. A brief reflection has been prepared for the congregation to sit and contemplate as the sermon will unfold tomorrow. Going out on the limb tomorrow. Since I spent 35+ years in Church Music before becoming a pastor, the sermon “in The Beginning” will be a musical one. I will be playing “Ciacona in d minor” by Johann Pachelbel (he preceeds J.S. Bach in the Baroque period) on the organ. It is a piece that starts out simply and quietly, then builds itself up to quite the crescendo in the middle. (Think of an arch) It then goes through a bit of a descrescendo until it ends back to the same notes/theme from which it started. There’s 16 variations on the 5 note walking theme in the pedal line. Thankfully our Book of Order allows for creative ways for the Word to be Proclaimed.

    we shall see how it all turns out! Blessings to all of you for a meaningful Advent!

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  22. I’m providing pulpit supply for two more weeks. Strange to be the guest preacher and not the one organizing the Advent theme on into Christmas, or providing direction for the worship art in the sanctuary. I’m so much a “big picture” person, and I love connecting the dots from week to week. But instead I’ll tackle Josiah and rediscovering the Word for our lives. It is something I am discovering personally as I move from reading Scripture with “work” in mind, to reading the Word again primarily for pleasure in this chapter called retirement. Prayers for my sisters as you proclaim the Good News in this season.

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  23. I am ruthlessly editing out SO MANY “seems to,” “perhaps,” “maybe.” Say something, preacher! With conviction!

    A completely new introduction has helped the beginning. Now I just need to follow that thread through the sermon and get rid of the extra clutter, along with all the wishy-washy words.!

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  24. Finished, much earlier than I anticipated, and with far less pain. Once the introduction improved, it was easy to fix the rest of it. I’m supplying at one of my favorite congregations tomorrow; I often go there when the First Sunday of Advent falls on Thanksgiving weekend.

    Standing ready to fix y’all a grilled cheese sandwich–that’s what we had for supper, and you’re welcome to one too.

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  25. ok, here I am. I’ve had delicious blue apron mac-n-cheese (twirly pasta with a cheesy bechamel sauce and kale and turnip…I was skeptical about the turnip but it worked), and I’m turning on the treadmill desk for the first time since I injured my knee 6 weeks ago. I think I’m more excited about that than I probably should be….certainly more excited about it than about the sermon, which currently does not exist.

    This is one of those weeks when I really need a beginning and I think the rest will all come…but I have absolutely NO idea how to start.

    there’s still some mac-n-cheese on the stove if you’d like it…it’s even healthy, because it has kale and turnips.

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  26. Wow, I think I’m done! A sermon is never done until you preach it, so no matter how early I get my first draft finished, I’m pretty much always tweaking on Saturday night! Have basically had company nonstop since Thursday midday (my husband is being very patient with my family and college buddies), and the current guests are waiting on me to play a board game or two, so I was trying to get the sermon finished and I think I did it! Theme is preparation for both the birth of a baby Messiah on Christmas and the return of Jesus at an undisclosed time in the future. The way we prepare for both is to live a life of love (per 1 Thess 3). Might re-read before bed, but for now, off to visit with our houseguests! Blessings to those still writing.

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  27. Spent the mornign at the church for decorating. SPent the afternoon at a TEDX event.

    Now mulling my sermon while watch Santa Clause 2 with teh girls.

    Hope and despair. Which is stronger and/or more prevalent?

    I am thinking I will start by asking folks what their sources of despair are in life….then move towards the hope,

    Every valley shall be lifted up, every mountain and hill brought low…preparing the highway of hope seems to be a lot of work

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  28. Putting on the coffee pot for those still finishing up/tweaking.
    For me, Advent this year will be very much about learning to appreciate space and not being the organiser of all that happens in church, such a strange place to be. Trying to look at the positives as well as acknowledge the loss and the calling of God in it all.
    Thanking God for this community with which to journey.

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    1. Blessings to you, Liz. Advent is the hardest time of year, for me, not to be in a “permanent” position at a church. There are advantages, as you say, but it’s still difficult.

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