According to my calculations, Advent is more than halfway over. How are we feeling?

I’m guessing that you might feel a bit like I do, so please, take a deep breath. Repeat. And one more time. Ok. Do that several times today. It will help.

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Photo by Monica Smith, 2019. Original artist unknown.

What’s happening for you this Third Sunday of Advent? Choir program? Children’s pageant? Sermon series? Revised Common Lectionary? Narrative Lectionary? Lessons and Carols? Longest Night service? Where have you found some inspiration?

We’re here for mutual support and encouragement and ideas and snack provisions. I’ve made homemade candy this week, so help yourselves to some peanut brittle, toffee, and/or fudge. And our kids made gingerbread people–sample at your own risk.

Peace be with you, preachers.

 


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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45 thoughts on “11th Hour Preacher Party: Advent 3

  1. RCL, trying to avoid anything “political.” Can I get away with a mention that John the Baptist was a political prisoner? Going with the idea that blind seeing and lame walking etc. is very nice, but John is still in prison and isn’t going to get out alive. We have our own suffering and sorrow, so where’s the joy? How do we believe Jesus is the one when even John wasn’t sure? Then ending on how we see evidence in our daily lives–many sweet stories on the internet to refer to that show the spirit of love and reconciliation at work.

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  2. I am working with Ezra and moved Luke 1:5-25 to this week as well, taking about the temple – well a bit anyway. First service tomorrow is followed by morning tea for a 100th birthday and the second service will be followed by annual meeting. So i am thinking a very short sermon will be just fine. It is now 9.45 pm on Saturday night, and the clear thought i had earlier in the week is not translating into words.

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      1. a lamington is cake [individual serve] coated in chocolate icing and rolled in coconut. often plain, but sometimes with cream and jam in the middle. i think initially it was a way of using cake that was stale. it can be buttercake or sponge.

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  3. I am using Isaiah 40 (Comfort, O Comfort my people) which I picked in August. It’s been an hard ten days in the congregation with deaths of sisters, grandmothers, husbands and fathers. So…appropriate for that…but for the Sunday we light the candle of joy…a bit tougher. We have special music guests and communion so my words will be short. I have an idea which will touch on a blend of comfort and joy. Off to train the pastoral search committee mid-morning.

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    1. I had that last Sunday and talked about how the message of comfort makes sense to some and less so to others….but the follow up is that all of us together are going to get uncomfortable for a bit (go to the wilderness) so that the whole world can know the comfort and glory of God. I did something similar again at a care home on Friday, talking about how different generations were experiencing different things – some grief, some feeling adrift, some right at home in the place they’ve always known, etc – and that comfort and call was for everyone, whatever their experience in the moment. All the people in the care home especially were nodding their heads in recognition…

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    2. Thanks, Terri, for your comments about Mary and Our Lady of Guadalupe. We are also using both readings about Mary from Luke in different forms. The annunciation is a short piece by Roddy Hamilton followed by the Magnificat. We will sing Canticle of the Turning at the end of the service.

      In the evening we have a Blue Christmas/Longest Night service which may have relatively high attendance. It’s the first time they have experienced it ….and it is much needed right now.

      It’s a difficult time for me and for the smallish congregation I serve. Today one of the members (50ish) who grew up in the church was removed from life support after a tragic fall two weeks ago. He had been depressed and there may have been intent. I married him and his wife who is from Kenya a year and a half ago. She and the parents are heartbroken.

      I’m not sure just what I will say tomorrow, likely very brief comments as the service is full., but Gaudete Sunday is not seeming very joyful. I’m grateful that this is the Sunday we planned the longest night service.

      The funeral is Wednesday. I’m thinking of using Psalm 139 as a way to offer comfort that God is there in our darkest days. I can’t really address the depression outright as the niece of the deceased was hospitalized for depression concurrently, is now home and getting good care. >>>but it’s a tender time.

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  4. I’m back from a children’s Christmas party at the church where I’m Interim Moderator (so I look after them while they don’t have a minister). it was the first one they’ve tried to do in decades, and it was good fun. About half a dozen children turned up to play games, have snacks, do a craft, hear the christmas story, and sing songs.
    Now I’m torn between things because tonight is the final of Strictly Come Dancing….and also there’s a concert (Rutter’s Gloria) in a church a couple of miles away at the same time….and also I haven’t actually written my sermon on Ezra yet though I do have some ideas! I’m working with that last bit about how when the foundation was laid, the people rejoiced…and also some who remembered the old Temple wept, because it wasn’t the same, and the weeping and the rejoicing mingled together so you couldn’t tell them apart. I am planning to start by talking about how Christmas is such a joyous time of year for so many people, and the sounds of the season….but that for immigrants like me, it’s also disconcerting because the sounds are not what we expect, the tunes and carols are different, and so what brings joy to some also brings sadness to others, because it isn’t what we remember/love. (It’s past time for me to be the example of the one who longs for the way things used to be!) The question is really how I’m going to transition from that into the actual point of the sermon, rather than just subjecting the congregation to me singing my favourite carols to them! Haha.

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  5. Any ideas on the gospel, and not about John,for kids/all ages? I’m just getting nowhere thinking about this, even with digging around online.
    In the meantime, off to shop for a gift that needs to be mailed; I tried last night but the giant shopping mall had a power outage 😮

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    1. I’m using the Magnificat for the children’s time – the prop is a magnifying glass, which we use to see things more clearly (bigger). Our joy in Jesus helps other people see God better. That’s the gist of it.

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  6. I’m writing a sermon based primarily on Isaiah 35:1-10 and Luke 1:46-55, which I have made the primary reading since it was the alternative for the psalm. (I’ll glance in on Matthew 11 and John the Baptist, too.) I have a great story for Isaiah 35, and specifically the Holy Way portion, but two things are holding me back from using it. First, my wife preached an amazing sermon using the same illustration, so I hesitate to use it myself (not the sermon, that is, the illustration). And second, I’m not sure how many of these people know I *have* a wife, and in the middle of a sermon seems like the wrong place to say it for the first time in a church where I am supplying for 8 weeks. So I am trying to regroup and unpack Isaiah another way. My learning from preaching short-term to a congregation I’m not in contact with otherwise is that I probably won’t do this again. It’s very hard to know what to say.

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  7. Tomorrow our Young Disciples will present the Christmas story through drama ( no live animals!) and a baby will be baptized! Going with the Alternate Psalm in Luke1 and Gospel reading in Luke 11, the sermon will be short: God comes to us in the most unexpected/unlikely ways and especially when we least expect God to show up. Messiah born a helpless baby to bring us and be God’s love for us to help us in the many ways we need help, not at all the kick butt and take names Messiah JB had apparently expected. After tomorrow I’m on holiday till January 2!!!
    Counting the days till Thursday when our grandkids arrive with their parents (our son and d-in-law) from The Windy City and our youngest arrives from AU😆😆😆 Our family hasn’t all been together in 3 years.
    God is good!!!

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  8. I am planning a reflection on Mary. I’m leaning into Kathleen Norris’ book Meditations on Mary with photos of classic art and sculpture. In particular I’m talking about the power of icons and images of Mary to inspire people to action for justice. I’ll reference Our Lady of Częstochowa, the Black Madonna in Poland that was a symbol of resistance in the 1980’s; and the Our Lady of Guadalupe. And I’ll reference how the magnificat, which takes the place of the Psalm tomorrow, was outlawed in Guatemala in the 1980’s because it considered too provocative and inspired the masses to rebel against the government. How the Magnificat praises God who blessed to insignificant women and who lifts up the lowly. That this Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, with the lighting of a pink candle and the praying of the Magnificat is a day to remember our own relationship with God and how we too are called to disarm the polarities and live with passion, the passion of God’s love, mercy, and justice. That it is a day of Gaudate – to rejoice in God.

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      1. I think that comment was for me? It wasn’t really a story without acknowledging we are a couple, so I went in another direction. (Our car broke down in Amish country, and we had to rely on the kindness of people we weren’t sure would be okay with us if they knew.)

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            1. I absolutely loved that story. And such a gifted storyteller! The story is a good example (although not one I’m using) of how there is evidence of the kindom in all kinds of unexpected places if we are simply open and aware. “Are you the one?” “Look around–what do you see? People being neighbors to one another!”

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  9. I’m not sure I think the sermon is good, but it is the right number of words. So…that may have to suffice for the moment. We’ll see what I think of it when I get up! It’s bedtime now. I hope you all have a wonderful night, that the sermon fairy delivers even more promptly than Amazon Prime, and that you get good rest in advance of a busy day.
    And for our friends where Sunday morning is over now, I hope it was great and you get a fabulous holy nap! 🙂

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  10. This year, in an attempt to broaden our hymnody, many of the sermon series have been titled “The songs of…” So, we are singing and learning the “Songs of Advent”, focusing on an Advent Candle Theme each week.
    This week we are doing “Joy” and I researched and read some great information about “Joy to the World” being a song for the second coming and thus, an Advent song.
    Still some polishing but our car is toast and we have serious decisions to make with no budget to make them with.

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  11. I am using a sustainable sermon that (sort of) combines John’s doubt with Mary’s song of rejoicing. We’ve had a full week with out-of-town guests, board meetings, and preparation for next week’s children’s pageant, so I was glad I had something from the files that I could tweak for this Guadete Sunday. I was grateful for your reflection on the lectionary earlier this week, Martha Spong, to help me tie all the loose bits together and give it a fresh ending. I mentioned above that the children’s time will talk about Mary’s Song and the word ‘magnify’, and how our joy in Christ magnifies God so that others can see God more clearly. Now I just need to find my magnifying glass to use as a prop!

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  12. I like that magnifying glass idea; I’m going to tuck that away for another time.
    While waiting in a very long line at a store today, I came up with an idea. Based on the line “Go and tell John what you see and hear,” I’m printing out a bunch of photos from the life of our congregation over the last 5 years or so, ones that in some way show people helping or welcoming or preparing or sharing good news in a variety of ways. I’m going to ask people to look at them in small groups and then share what they see in the photo of God’s love in the world.

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  13. Friends, I’ve had a good day, but a long one. I’m turning in for the night.

    Peace be with all of you, and may the Spirit bring the Word to you and God’s people.

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  14. I’m late to the conversation tonight, but I am mostly done. I’m in Isaiah 35 and hoping to use an illustration of my Christmas cactus to bring home the joy that “even a fool can not go astray.” I’ll be mentioning the goodness of God that looks at the dry land and, rather than finding a preferable spot for the Holy Way, brings the existing wilderness to new life. I have a 7-10 min limit. I’m currently at about 12… so I’ll be revising in the morning. Or maybe talking faster.

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    1. I prefer to have too much so that I can edit it down, rather than not have enough and feel like I need to fill. The best editing advice I got was from a seminary professor who said “this text will come around again. You don’t have to preach every thought you have on this text today”.

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  15. It’s 8:30am and time to write the prayers…I’m so glad that no huge news stories seem to have happened overnight. I’m also glad that upon re-reading this morning, the sermon is not a disaster. So I’ve tweaked a word here and there, but mostly left it as-is, and will hope that the Spirit works some magic in the hearing. 🙂

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