Preachers, it’s the home stretch! Fourth Sunday of Advent, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, then we’re finished! Until…you know…the next Sunday.

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My calendar this week is as busy as this branch on the tree. Photo by Monica Smith, 2013

In any case, we are here to party today! Maybe you’re able to work ahead, thanks to a choir cantata or children’s program today. Or maybe you’re working on a sermon for tomorrow. We’re here for any and all resource and advice sharing. Sermon starters and discussions are on the RGBP website, for Narrative Lectionary and the Revised Common Lectionary.

Christmas goodies are on the snack table: we have homemade candy to share. If you’re needing healthy food, we have some clementines.


 

Monica Thompson Smith is a Presbyterian Church (USA) minister, serving as a pulpit supply preacher in South Central Texas. She is a contributor toย Thereโ€™s a Woman in the Pulpit.


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73 thoughts on “11th Hour Preacher Party: the Home Stretch

  1. Hi Monica, thanks for hosting. Mid Saturday afternoon and I am making sweets. already made rocky road, and the base of the mint slice is finished, just needs some white chocolate on top. help yourself, there will still be plenty for the church leaders Christmas gathering tomorrow afternoon. 2 morning services as usual, then a Blue Christmas service tomorrow afternoon, and the leaders gathering. at least i won’t have to cook dinner tomorrow night.
    i am so pleased that Christmas is a Sunday this year, makes the services a whole lot more manageable – here in Australia Christmas Day is usually the day when once a year people come.

    tomorrow, i guess a sermon would be a good idea. I have a quiz from Thoughtful Christian i will include somewhere, it asks which gospel various parts of the Christmas story are from.
    Also a skit from Iona [Candles and Conifers p 2018 ] of Joseph and the angel having a chat.
    I am thinking about how we can follow the Biblical Law, without following God – just need to find some better words than that.
    my high school motto was work conquers all [in Latin of course] , i am thinking about Love conquering all.

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    1. Hi Pearl! Thanks for coming. I love our cultural differences–for instance,I have no idea what mint slice is, but it sounds good! My spouse did a Christmas Bible quiz a couple of Sundays ago, and the people loved it. I hope yours goes as well.

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      1. Pearl, you’ve been busy!

        If anybody needs a children’s moment idea, your quiz reminds me of an exercise I used a few years ago in a Christian ed setting that could work for a sermon or even Christmas pageant.

        Give each person a picture or puppet (or sign, costume) of a character from the blended story: Gabriel, Mary, Joseph, donkey, innkeeper, sheep (cows, goats, etc.), shepherds, host of angels, star, Magi, Herod, Anna, Simeon, Elizabeth, John the Baptist, Zechariah. Even locations like Nazareth, Bethlehem, stable.

        Read Matt. or Luke; when someone hears her character mentioned, they take their place in the scene. Start over and read the other version. Which things show up both times? Whose character was never mentioned? What details have been added by tradition (St. Francis of Assisi’s animals at the manger scene) or imagination? How does the story change for you with or without the merged, accumulated detail?

        I have dark chocolate chip + pecan cookies to share that came out flat and homely but taste good.

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  2. Having a huge Christmas party for the people who come to In The Garden Ecclesia Ministry; we have backpacks loaded with toiletries, towels and washcloths, socks and underwear, scarves, hygiene items for women, homemade Christmas cookies (I baked over 600 cookies!) tied up with a big red bow. Volunteers come this morning to stuff backpacks and have chili with the fixings.

    Needless to say, I had to finish my sermon early. Took the slant that Joseph was a great, but somewhat unwilling stepfather.

    http://wp.me/p3CZwj-yL

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  3. I’m preaching a sermon from a couple of years back on Joseph and the interruptions in our lives — “Did You Have Other Plans?”. I cut it by about 1/4 a couple of days ago, which may say something about my bloated Presby sermons versus my more succinct Lutheran ones. I am only preaching it once tomorrow, as our second service is the children’s program.

    Good think about preaching only once and it being a sustainable sermon. I have posted on the FB page about the latest email chain filled with anti-Muslim hatred and fear, and won’t belabor the point here, except to say that I have lost all interest in going to church tomorrow.

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  4. Good morning, preachers! And Monica, thanks for hosting this week.

    We are iced in this morning (ice on a coating of snow, to boot), so we are really glad we laid in some comfort food/storm supplies last night. I have cinnamon rolls to share.

    Tomorrow is my last Sunday at the church I have served as interim since September 2014. Last Sunday they gave me a surprise celebration reception. I had my final Consistory (aka Session/Council/Vestry) meeting Thursday night. I’ve boxed up some files and have a strategy for getting everything done between now and Christmas Eve, which will be my last service (home communions, things to pass along to the Designated Pastor – a player to be named later – and the Supply Pastor for January, bulletin for Christmas Eve, bulletin they can use throughout January, lists of passwords, I’m sure I’m forgetting something…). It feels like a lot at the moment.

    I’m in the RCL, with Joseph, and I’m trying to thread the needle, making this more about God’s love and the ways it inspires us to love, and less about their impending closure and my departure. Somehow I have to find the word I would preach if it were just any 4th Sunday of Advent, to witness without saying it explicitly that our faith story continues even if we are not worshipping in the same place.

    First, more coffee.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Martha, a shower of blessings on your final Sunday with your congregation. I will be in the same place soon, and I already feel the mixture of pride and sorrow that comes at the end of a transition accomplished (one way or another!). I hope that your last service is a gift to you as well as to your congregation.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Prayers for your final Sunday, and all the other “lasts” that will happen this week. That’s adding extra activity and emotion to an already full week. Thanks for the cinnamon rolls! I hope the roads clear out today.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Struggling a bit to put mine into words. I have the body of a piece about the names of Jesus in Matt 1, but it all feels a bit abstract. I need an intro and conclusion to anchor it to today and I’m toiling.

    But I do have a rather nice cappuccino cake to share. We also have our Christmas pagent tomorrow evening, so once the sermon is done I need to go back to finalising my bit of that (fortunatly that is quite simple)

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    1. I’ve written sermons like that before–they’re a bit floaty, and need tying down to earth somehow. Prayers that words come to you soon.

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  6. Back when I was looking ahead to Advent, I read through the lectionary for each Sunday and decided on the overall theme of longing. Tomorrow is longing for home, and now I’m not sure how I came up with it. Home can be expanded into refuge, though, so that gives me more to work with–something about home and refuge being in the heart of God. As for other things substituting for the sermon–not happening here. 30-member congregation has no children or youth, and a 5-person choir (including moi). But Christmas Eve will be lessons and carols with no sermon, and Christmas Day will be a Katherine Paterson story. I’m debating whether I can get away with a story for New Year’s Day as well.

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    1. Which Katherine Paterson story are you using? I’m planning a story for Christmas morning and am only semi-satisfied with my choice.

      Hopefully that “what was I thinking?” feeling will go away soon and you’ll find what you want to say about longing for home (safety? place where they have to welcome you in?)

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      1. From her latest collection, A Stubborn Sweetness, I’m leaning toward “Exultate Jubilate.” “My Name Is Joseph” is tempting, but some might find it to “political.” Maybe I’ll use it for January 1.

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  7. Oh, and the goodies: There’s a party this afternoon–an annual event given for the female friends of a lovely member of the church where I was a member for 35 years. So I’m in the process of making a cranberry curd tart, with a hazelnut-rice flour crust (GF). The crust is done, the cranberries are about to go on the stove. I made this for Thanksgiving and it was fabulous. Enjoy!

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  8. Good (Central U.S. time) morning, everyone! I enjoyed “free sleeping,” as my first grader calls “sleeping in,” and it can only be called sleeping in relative to my usual hour of waking.

    I’m reworking a sustainable sermon. That worked horribly last week–just no energy, and I didn’t know it well enough, so I’m not sure why I thought it would be a good idea for this week. It’s a much better sermon, though, and I have a less-packed Saturday, so hopefully I can work through it and be more familiar with it.

    I’ll disappear for a little while this afternoon. I’m accompanying said first grader to a birthday party at the roller skating rink. This makes me feel like it’s about 1985, which is probably the last time I’ve roller skated. I hope I will be able to avoid skating altogether!

    We have homemade candy: peanut brittle, toffee, fudge; and gingerbread cookies, decorated generously with M&M’s. Feel free to help yourselves–we have way too much.

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  9. Good morning from tiny snowflakes, wind, and below zero wind chills. (and to think it was 70 degrees yesterday)!

    Working on Joseph and Mary saying yes. I am typically a 1500 word preacher which is about 12-15 minutes. However, at this interim position there are a multitude of moving parts, responses, singing, and the organist plays the hymns slower than I would prefer. In addition, I’ve added two times of silence to the worship experience. So, I am working on sermons which are around 1000 words…which is sometimes easy and sometimes hard.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! I usually aim for around 2000 on a non-communion Sunday. Maybe I talk too fast? On the other hand, there’s no choir, no children’s time, the offering only takes a minute or so. So there’s more time to fill up. I like the idea of Joseph and Mary saying ‘yes.”

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  10. Hi all! I’m glad to see so much deliciousness out on the table here, as I have exactly none of those things.
    I have a funeral this afternoon, so I’m currently pondering a new funeral homily using 1 Thessalonians 4-5 (the end of 4 and beginning of 5)…it hasn’t been chosen for funerals I’ve officiated before, so I feel like I need to do something with it. Of course the funeral is for a person I really loved and who was one of my great supporters, and it was sudden and unexpected, so everyone (including me) is still in shock.
    A late-afternoon funeral does mean that there’ll be dinner, though…so there’s that.

    Then I’ll be back to work on Advent 4 in the NL, the annunciation to Mary and Mary’s visit to Elizabeth. I added the remainder of the Magnificat, too. Currently the title is “Magnified” and the only little seed of idea I have is something about being open to possibility. Hopefully inspiration will strike sometime between the end of the funeral and bedtime. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Since I have a zillion things to do, that naturally means I’ll be here a lot today. lol. ttfn!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. All week, I’ve been mulling over God’s Love as God’s with-ness and looking for unexpected places it appears. There was a beautiful essay about the interfaith chaplaincy offered to the mourners of the Oakland “Ghost Ship” fire: here’s the link: http://religiondispatches.org/good-mourning-modeled-by-chaplains-and-clergy-at-the-oakland-ghost-ship-fire/ God appearing, love in human form requiring things of us we might ordinarily reject (marry the pregnant girl, let the drunken grievers have the microphone at a vigil). That’s what I’ve got for now.

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    1. I like that, Must go read…soon as I’m done.

      I’m on part 4 of our “ADVENT in Creation” series using Diana Butler Bass’ Grounded and the advent texts (selected). So this week is SKY, Angels, and faith practices that care for the environment/atmosphere. Sigh. just a little more editing and images. (and to think I left out Advent Wreath words so I wouldn’t have extra themes to tie together…I do it to myself!) Don’t we all?

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  12. The upside to the weather is I got a lot done today: sermon, Christmas Eve meditation (which is an adaptation of a sustainable sermon), solid draft of Christmas Eve bulletin, communion liturgy finished. Now for cocoa and a book. Thanks to kathrynzj for supplying a story that helped my sermon come to a timely conclusion.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I was wishing I had a sustainable sermon to re-work, but then it occurred to me that we have always held the children’s pageant on Advent 4, so I’ve never preached this week before! I found some inspiration for an outline from http://www.edgeofenclosure.org/advent4a.html and am going with “When Dreams Become Reality” as a sermon title. Part One – abandoning the old dream. Part Two – Embracing the new dream. Part Three – Integration/Transformation in Emmanuel. My husband and I shoveled snow in sub-zero temperatures this morning (I’ve lost three pounds with all the snow shoveling this week), and will go out in a bit to do the one hour of Christmas shopping we have allowed for ourselves this year. When we get home, I will finish this sermon and hope that someone shows up at church tomorrow to hear it. There is warm chicken tortellini soup on the stove. Help yourself!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. We have cancelled worship for tomorrow. The ice isn’t going anywhere. Temperature is dropping steadily and will be around 0 degrees at the time of worship. So, I’m done with tomorrow. ๐Ÿ™‚ Crazy thing, I was mostly using Iona monologues and a Levertov poem for the sermon. I wish we could plan the weather related cancellations based on how desperately we needed to not have to write a sermon.

    So, I am pondering sermon for Christmas Eve, trying to first finish that bulletin, and then decide what to do for Blue Christmas. I hope it rises close to the freeze point so that, with sun, much of the ice will melt.

    Making a pot of bean soup and vegetable soup. It was going to be vegetable beef but my 13 year old son ate all the leftover roast beef (about 3 adult servings) for a snack last night. Worse, he ate the mashed potatoes that I hid for myself. At any rate, help yourselves.

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    1. Enjoy your found time, even if you didn’t need the weather bailout!

      Thanks for the soup. Our kids already frequently eat more than I do in a day, so I’m a little worried about what the teenage years will bring! He must be growing quickly.

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  15. Things I know about worship tomorrow: we will have worship despite the cold, my co-pastor will not be there due to international travel delays, our intern will be there and leading the prayers, and I have a children’s sermon idea (but not the prop I need and no backup idea).

    Things I do not yet know about worship tomorrow: what the sermon will be about. I’ve been playing around with the Syria conflict and caring about others as a way of preparing for the birth of Christ, but I don’t actually have a sermon or any reference to the texts that will be read in worship. Not sure whether it will work or if I’ll have to scrap the whole thing and start over.

    Back to writing! I’m at my favorite coffee shop/wine bar, so can offer up whatever beverage you’d like ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. OK – I’ve decided – I can talk about the conflict in Syria because it related to our preparation for the coming of Jesus in several ways: geographical/historical (Ahaz made an alliance with the Assyrians), ideological/theological (God tells us to care for the oppressed), and comparable to Jesus (who was also a refugee, threatened by violence, caught in the middle of multifaceted ongoing conflicts). So, just over halfway there… and no one ever complained about a sermon being too short… hoping to finish this thing soon!

      Liked by 2 people

  16. Checking in. We’ve had supper (leftovers, of course–it’s Saturday night!) and are awaiting the arrival of a powerful cold front (a 45 degree difference between today’s high and tomorrow’s). My sermon is yet awaiting some polishing, and my children’s time needs some thinking through.

    How are you doing, preachers? I’ll still be here for several hours.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I’m back from the funeral, bearing baked mostaccioli and ice cream. And I stopped at the store and picked up the stuff to make peppermint bark, because I’m a 7 on the Enneagram and the possibility of gluttony was too much for me to bear without giving in.

    I have zero words for a sermon, and I’d really like to go to bed at a reasonable hour. So I’m saying I have to be done by 10:30. 3.5 hours should be plenty of time, right?

    #ifIcanstayoffFacebook

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            1. I know. I’m writing but it’s not gelling. And I’m not motivated because I don’t think we should have church when the wind chill is going to be -39.

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  18. It’s always reassuring to come here and see that I’m not the only one lacking mojo for sermon writing! I’ve had what seemed like a great starting point all week, so I wasn’t worried, but now it’s almost 7:30 pm and I realize that all I have is an intro with a very short point to it…and no interest in thinking or writing anything else. Must. Find. Willpower. (and accept that’s not likely to happen on FB or my solitaire app) Even my iPad is mysteriously running out of steam despite being plugged into the charger!

    For those of you who are in freezing climes, I offer a bit of sunshine in the form of oranges, tangerines, and limes picked from neighbors’ yards.

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    1. Sigh. Almost 11:00 p.m. and all I have is an outline. And there’s no weather to worry about except rain. Looks like another sleepless night.

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  19. Worship is cancelled for tomorrow due to predicted wind chills of -51 !!! My sermon was half-written when the decision was made, and has become the intro to my Christmas sermon. I was disappointed that all our worship prep work was for naught, but then I transformed the worship plan into a worship-at-home experience and put it on our Facebook page…so we’ll see what folks do with that!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. BRRRR! Stay inside and stay warm. I’m glad your folks will be safe at home, and I’m glad you’ve found a way for all your preparations to be put to productive use.

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  20. Those of you who are still working, keep on encouraging and helping one another. I’m headed to bed, maybe. It’s the worst possible combination: I’m almost done with a mystery novel, and it’s Saturday night. I really want to find out whodunit, but I need to go to sleep! What’s a mystery-loving preacher to do?

    Peace be with all of you. Stay warm if it’s cold where you are. Blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. In California here, where i just got home from a youth group snow sledding event. We piled a bunch of shaved ice on a hillside, formed a track, and watched the teens slide down it for an hour in 45 degree (F) weather. I’m still shivering from the cold and my brain is rather empty of inspiration. Two hours– that’s what I’m giving myself. Peace, all!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. My routine is also to put myself to sleep with a mystery novel (I specialize in those set in medieval times). I’ve been cranking out the sermon intro, and suddenly I have nearly 1/3 of my 1500 words. I might get some sleep after all. Should I save all the formatting for morning (risking a delay on getting up), or do it before bed?

    I’m going to make some dark fairtrade hot chocolate. Anyone want any?

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I have 2/3 of a sermon, but am sort of stalled at transitioning to the last section. I have a children’s time idea planned. I still need to write prayers and come up with a spiritual-practice-confession. I think I’ll be doing that from my bed.
    peppermint bark ice cream is in the freezer for those who need some extra inspiration. help yourselves. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

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