By Sarah Erickson, Director for Lifelong Learning
“The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” Jeremiah 33: 14-15
So it began for many Christians on Sunday, Nov. 29. Or at least it began that way for many congregations that follow the Revised Common Lectionary. For those congregations using the Narrative Lectionary, it began, “Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign; he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jedidah daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath. He did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right or to the left.” 2 Kings 22:1-2
“It” is Advent, the beginning of the liturgical year, the four Sundays prior to Christmastide. It happens every year. Congregational volunteers and staff leaders ponder how to engage children of God of all ages in meaningful activities designed to enrich the understanding and practice of watchful waiting. The good news is there are many resources available – and they will most likely be readily accessible this year for those who are still rounding out their Advent preparations and for those who are already determined to incorporate some new, contextually-appropriate, meaningful resources into next year’s preparations.
Here are a few of the resources I’ve compiled this year. A little “just in time” learning may spark your imagination and fan the flames of your Advent candles in the coming weeks or years.
Social Media Resources
Want something new, or recently refreshed? These resources available from various social media platforms are great places to begin:
Then there is the group Advent on the Brain? which actually began posting this past summer, so you can look to them for next year, too.
And over on www.Pinterest.com, simply search for Advent, set a timer and start exploring; without a timer you might spend all day! From free printable resources to crafts, traditions, lessons, devotionals, Church, art, worship, – so many subcategories, so little time.
Other Web Resources
Many congregations publish online and/or hard copy Advent devotionals, as do seminaries and other faith-based organizations. Of course I recommend the seminary’s own Journey 2015, and our sister institution to the west, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, has a downloadable version.
http://worshipingwithchildren.blogspot.com by Carolyn Brown is a great choice, year-round. She’s already posting about New Year’s Day – check her lectionary tab for Advent and other seasonal resources.
http://www.stephenmfearing.com/liturgy//worshiping-with-children-advent-year-c is a new one – you’ll be hearing more from Stephen Fearing in this space in a couple of weeks.
https://candlesatdark.wordpress.com/2015/11/28/advent-questions/ is a previously-written post by the seminary’s director of communications, Michael Thompson.
And over at Building Faith, you’ll find Advent and Christmas ideas, including this blessing for a Christmas tree: www.buildfaith.org/2015/11/30/a-christmas-tree-blessing/.
Anne Weems’ Kneeling in Bethlehem, a collection of her poetry first published 28 years ago, and the more recent Feasting on the Word Advent Companion: A Thematic Resource for Preaching and Worship published in 2014 are two of many resources I’ve seen referenced recently. What might you add – your “go-to” items on your physical or virtual bookshelf?
Congregational and Denominational Resources
You may be familiar with the congregational advent devotional, developed for print or electronic sharing. I’m not familiar with community-wide collaborations of this type, so was delighted to learn of a new venture among the congregations and clergy of the Presbytery of South Alabama. A presbytery-wide Advent devotional booklet was created thanks to the contributions of various Ruling and Teaching Elders, deacons, and Christian Educators from across the Presbytery, and shared with each congregation and contributor.
A number of denominations feature online resources designed to assist in weekly worship preparation and personal devotional. The United Methodist Discipleship Ministries have a helpful selection collected at www.umcdiscipleship.org/worship/worship-planning, as does the ELCA at www.elca.org/Our-Work/Congregations-and-Synods/Worship/Lectionary/YearC.
The best news, actually, is that a good many of these suggested resources will provide options for the other liturgical seasons, too. Note those that pique your interest, borrow printed resources from a library or colleague, and see how the Spirit may inspire your liturgical sensibilities throughout the year.
What might you add for congregational Advent practices and resources? Do share your resources – traditional “print,” electronic or self-produced – in the comments.
Sarah Erickson serves as Director at the CLL. She has special interests in the role of music and worship in faith formation. She serves on the Committee for Preparation for Ministry in her presbytery, and is involved in Christian education and formation for children and adults at N. Decatur Presbyterian in Decatur, GA. She currently serves as the President for ALLLM, and you can find her on Facebook, on Twitter @saraherickson and occasionally on Pinterest.