I would love to hear how others are celebrating Advent this year. I have a two-fold hope in posting this discussion topic.
The first is to encourage each other as we turn our attention toward Christmas by sharing the diverse ways that the Spirit is working across our communities this year. The second is that as we share glimpses of our Advent journeys, we can gather ideas for how we might go about planning Advent next year. (Yes, I know it's a year away, but what better time to plant some seeds in our hearts and minds!)
This Advent, our congregation (First Hamilton CRC in Ontario) has a sermon theme of "Hearing the Good News of Jesus Christ through Isaiah." Throughout these worship gatherings, our goal is to both remember Jesus' birth and to anticipate Christ's return. We've set up our Sunday sermons to reflect on four passages from Isaiah in connection with the traditional Advent candle ideas of hope, peace, joy, and love.
The first Sunday of Advent focused on Isaiah 1:10-20, inviting us to receive the hope of God's promised forgiveness in sending Jesus Christ.
The second Sunday of Advent turns our attention toward the overflowing peace (shalom) that God promises through Jesus Christ as we listen to Isaiah 12.
On the third Sunday of Advent, we will give attention to the joy expressed through Isaiah 43:1-7, as we hear God's promise to bring all of his children home to him through Jesus Christ.
Our concluding Advent message on December 24 brings us to Isaiah 62 with a reflection on God's faithful love in Jesus Christ.
We will then celebrate the coming of God's glory and grace in Jesus Christ on Christmas Day, as we hear the gospel from John 1:14-18 in connection with Isaiah 65:17-25 & Revelation 21:1-5.
Along with our sermon series, I have written a daily devotional for our congregation that helps us journey through Isaiah as we anticipate Jesus' birth and return. We have also included an advent candle lighting as our time of confession and assurance of pardon for each Advent worship service.
If you are willing to post a quick response, I would love to hear what your Advent themes are this year. If you are willing, could you also share any ways that you are engaging your Advent theme beyond the sermon? (Special music, artwork, discipleship or service projects, etc.)
Daily devotional!? You set the bar high, Chris! :) We came into Advent out of a series based on Skye Jethani's book "With". Jethani examines 5 different ways we interact with God (For, From, Over and Under), noting how none of them were what God intended. Rather, God wants to be WITH us, which is made possible in Immanuel. During Advent, then, we've compared and contrasted our "withness" now with being with God in the Garden of Eden, (Genesis 3), at the burning bush (Exodus 3), in the tabernacle (Exodus 40) and in the temple (Ezekiel 10). Christmas Eve will present how much closer we are WITH God than at any time before. Merry Christmas!
Thanks, Gary! I've found that occasionally writing a devotional to go along with a sermon series or a liturgical season helps me keep my sermons a bit more focused. I remember that I don't need to say everything that's in the text. :-)
I like the "with" idea - and the four texts sound like a rich way to experience the longing in Advent. Have others in your church been reading Jethani's book along with the Advent series?
People were reading the Jethani book more when we were looking at the 4 alternatives to being WITH God. Those who engaged with the book found it very helpful.
Our theme this year is "Seek and Find." The idea is that all the treasures we seek are found in Jesus. We are using the four "servant songs" from Isaiah found in chapters 42, 49, 50, and 53. Each week's sermon is preceded by a video obtained from a Christian video provider which encourages us to seek and find all the God has for us in Christ.
The servant songs are rich texts, aren't they? I've used them in Lent before, but not as a focus during Advent.
How has your congregation responded to using videos as an introduction to your sermons?
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