For some of you, this is completely unremarkable. For some of you, it’s completely out of season. But we received 3 inches of snow at our house in South Central Texas Thursday night! It came as a surprise, not in our forecast at all! We know that such things are ephemeral here, so everyone let their kids stay up late to play in it, and the school district canceled school Friday. A surprise day off!

Snow on the Sago Palms. We’ll wait and see how they react. Photo by Monica Smith, 2017.

As a preacher is apt to do, I started thinking about the surprise. Advent is a season of surprises, yes? The Messiah doesn’t come as expected, will not come as expected, will be a surprise.

Is your sermon surprising? How is it coming? Narrative Lectionary preachers are getting surprised in the Valley of the Dry Bones. RCL preachers are with John the Baptist and Isaiah, leveling hills and surprising the powerful.

We’re tackling the homemade candy today, so I’ll have some to share soon. John has brought the locusts and wild honey. What do you have for the snack table?

And for pure procrastinatory pleasure: don’t forget to keep your BINGO card handy.

Monica Thompson Smith is a Presbyterian Church (USA) minister, serving as stated supply pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Luling, TX. She is a contributor to There’s a Woman in the Pulpit.

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27 thoughts on “11th Hour Preacher Party: Surprise Edition

  1. My husband is jealous–this is his second winter in Illinois after moving from Texas, and he’s barely seen any snow here.

    Some of our members organized an Ugly Sweater Contest for tomorrow night after worship, and we’ve got the kids’ pageant on Sunday. I’m preaching on John the Baptist, but it’s gotta be short because of the pageant. I kind of want to tie in ugly sweaters to the sermon but haven’t figured out how to do it without being super corny–like, John the Baptist’s camel hair = Ugly Sweater.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. a baptism at the second service tomorrow, and showing a video on Ezekiel at the first service, so I need a short, clear sermon on Ezekiel. not too much to ask 🙂 i do have a sustainable one from 3 years ago and a different parish.
    i think for the congregation some of the conversation on the working preacher podcast about transformation – resurrection is not resuscitation – might be helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Several years ago, I put the Ezekiel passage together with the Lazarus passage (I know, you don’t need anything extra because it needs to be short!), and said something similar about resurrection and resuscitation. The congregation really resonated with it. I say go for it!


  3. I am in Isaiah and Psalm 85. I am including a story which Rachel Naomi Remen was told by her orthodox Jewish grandfather and tikkun olam…heal the world. This is one I have the concept in my head but struggling to get it down in a coherent fashion.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m working on Matthew 1:18-25. We have a resource for Advent candle lighting that looks at some of the main characters of the two birth narratives. Last week we had Mary’s Annunciation, and this week Joseph; next week will be Magi and the fourth Sunday will be Shepherds. Had a pretty rough day yesterday; choir director’s son has been in the nursing home since a really bad motorcycle accident in October of last year, and yesterday morning it became clear that the end was near. So instead of writing a sermon yesterday, I spent quite a bit of time sitting at his bedside. Then just before she went home, our secretary came in and gave her notice. She has got a full-time job with benefits, so I’m happy for her; but the timing with Christmas coming and me leaving in a month is a bit inconvenient. I could not wrap my mind around a sermon yesterday, and I’m still at a loss, other than a title: “It’s not what it looks like!”

    *Puts kimchi omelets and coffee on the share table*


    1. I’m also working on Matthew 1:18-25! Our theme is “Advent Promises,” so I’m looking at the promises made to Joseph, and how they are made to us, too.

      Prayers for your choir director and son, and blessings on the secretary transition.

      Also: kimchi omelets? I’d love to try some. Thanks!


      1. I like kimchi pancakes better, but didn’t want to work that hard. Plus I really wanted an omelet, but had nothing to put in a regular one except cheese and onions.

        The question that keeps turning in my mind is, “Does God really tell people it’s okay to disobey God’s commandments?”


  5. I’m a hard core Advent person, but this year I’ve been deeply craving the signs of Christmas. As I put up some lights around our front windowcthis morning–sermon procrastination, yes, but also a need I felt about 10 days sooner than usual–I figured it out: I am looking for and deeply in need of “Comfort, comfort.” With all that’s going on in the nation and world, a constant barrage of things that feel destructive to me, and the fires in So California this week (where I live, though fortunately not at risk now), I need comfort and good news. And Mark’s gospel starts with “The beginning of the good news…” I keep wanting it all here, right now, but maybe we’re still just in the beginning. Then my preaching task for this week is to offer the comfort of the signs of that beginning while acknowledging the rough places and crooked roads. And though I don’t usually go out on Saturday nights, I’m really glad I said yes to going to what should be an incredible Christmas concert tonight 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This year and last, I’ve turned on the Christmas music earlier than ever. I needed it. So yeah, I get it.

      Enjoy the concert!


    2. I’m doing Isaiah as well for the same reason…need some comfort in life right now. I’ve always done Christmas early…mainly because it helps me get through my SAD from Nov to Mid January 🙂


  6. We are continuing our Advent series on longing on the journey towards Christmas. Last week appeared to be well received. We tried the skit guys advent psalm video (a first here) and I really liked it and heard from more folks than I anticipated that they did, too. I am working on a sermon themed “Preparing for the Journey” and tying it into Mark 1:1-8 and 2 Peter 3:8-15a. So far, I’ve got a lot of things floating around and not much shape. Each year on this Sunday we sing the Godspell “Prepare Ye” which pre-dates me in this place. It has been in the place of the gathering song or the kyrie—this is not a liturgically traditional place 🙂 It is joyously fun, even as we stand in the midst of wondering how we prepare.

    Blessings to all as you prepare for preparing. I am going to hope and pray some shape takes place quickly. I have Christmas trains to look at with the little one tonight!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Guess what song is going to be stuck in my head all day long now?! 🙂

      Joining you in hoping that the sermon comes together in time for you to enjoy the trains.


  7. Have a pot of veggie beef soup on as I watch the first snow falling outside (and wonder how that will impact attendance tomorrow). Reflecting on Mark’s beginning the story of Jesus with preparation, and asking how preparation and comfort are linked. I know I’m always comforted with preparations are in place for just about anything. Think we need some muffins to go with that soup (yes, more procrastination.)


  8. I’m curious if anyone preaching on the Isaiah text will be mentioning the announcement about Jerusalem made this week. I want to speak on comfort and the exile context but in light of this week’s announcement I don’t want anyone to hear into it that I am saying this brings comfort. But I also don’t want to go on a tangent on the announcement…maybe I’m worrying too much either way and just need to focus on local comfort needs.

    I’m also thinking of talking about the Paradox of Peace (and comfort really). I brought the word up last week in Children’s’ sermon and my sermon and apparently everyone got really uncomfortable because it “was even to complicated for them” and I need to “dumb down the message”… I am trying to decide if my need to do the paradox part is Spirit (it did keep coming up in commentaries I was reading) or Spite. It’s only 9:40 pm on Sat. night. Plenty of time to decide 😀


  9. I’m preaching on the gospel text from Mark 1, and I’m thinking about how the process of preparing a way can be very disruptive, even convulsing. I want to quote a portion of Katie Hines-Shah’s article in this week’s Christian Century magazine, about her great-grandfather working on a railroad construction crew in Minnesota ( I also want to add a couple of contemporary examples of preparation that works with something very rough to make it smooth. What I’ve come up with so far is the idea of teaching a teenager to drive, or teaching me to drive a standard transmission. many in the congregation will probably draw the parallel with their current situation of preparing to call their next pastor. Right now they’re at the point in that preparation when it seems like the rough places will never be made plain and the barriers will never be brought down. My Hope Is that they will hear John the Baptist’s words as being full of hope and promise for them specifically as well as for the world in general.


  10. I apologize for checking out on the party last night! I decided to put my coughing self to bed and forgot to tell you all good night.

    Prayers as you receive and bring the word to God’s people today.


  11. Plano de acção é acertar a celulite por meio de este e aquele
    os lados, através da alimentação e produção, que eu digo de qualquer chance, nem sequer é para
    deflagrar os músculos por outra forma a abocanhar com fome,
    visto que programação nunca foi projetado destinado a fazer você admitir de outra
    maneira a fim de ajuizar sua defensão, porém a fim de eliminar a celulite bem como fazer você abortado.


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