Advent water wreath (particularly for southern hemisphere, and Australia
Using water as the entry point for the advent themes, especially suitable for the southern hemisphere as summer approaches and for the season of drought in many places.
Christmas Bowl Resources, including songs, prayers and Advent Candle litanies here.
From the depths we cry by Claire McKeever-Burgett
This is particular to events in the USA and can be easily adapted to local contexts. It is a lament and written in the context of Advent 2014 (can be used in place of prayers of confession). (Written in memory of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and all other black boys and men, black girls and women killed by those who purportedly exist to keep our communities safe.)
We hear the cry of Eric Garner’s widow: “Hell, no. The time for remorse for the death of my husband was when he was yelling to breathe.”
We hear the cry of Michael Brown’s mother: “We heard this and it was just like, like I had been shot. Like you shoot me now — just no respect, no sympathy, nothing. This could be your child. This could be anybody’s child.”
We hear the cry of Rachel in Ramah, one of deep anguish and bitter weeping, refusing to be comforted because her children are no more. (Jeremiah 31: 15)
We hear the cry of Maya Angelou: “It is impossible to struggle for civil rights, equal rights for blacks, without including whites. Because equal rights, fair play, justice, are all like the air: we all have it, or none of us has it. That is the truth of it.”
We hear the cry of Rev. Jeff Hood: “I keep thinking about Eric Garner saying, ‘I can’t breathe.- It made me think — that’s what Jesus is saying in this culture. Jesus is fundamentally connected to the marginalized and right now Jesus is saying, ‘I can’t breathe.’ I think the church should be saying the same thing — that we can’t breathe in this culture and we have to change this culture in order for us to have breath and exist in this society.”
We hear the cry of the prophets: “Repent, for the kin-dom of heaven is come near! Prepare the way of the Lord, and make the paths right!”
We hear the cries of each other:
How do we live in a world that kills unarmed black boys?
How do we raise our children in world that sets murderers free?
What does our privilege afford us, and what does our privilege call us to do?
A silence is kept
Cries of silence, cries of pain rise up like incense before the Holy One as we sit, as we wait.
From the depths, we cry, and from mercy, God hears the voices of grieving mothers and marginalized prisoners and oppressed captives.
From the depths, we cry, and from mercy, God attends our needs for peace, for healing, for justice, for love.
From the depths, we cry, and from mercy, we sit together, and we wait.
From the depths, we cry, and from mercy, we trust and we live.
From the depths, we cry, and from mercy, we sing a new song in spite of our fear.
From the depths, we cry, and from mercy a child is born.
From the depths, we cry, and from mercy we creatively and powerfully act.
A silence is kept
 If we are to be so bold, someone could actually yell a cry here. It is dramatic, but I think it’s appropriate and adds texture to the true lamentation – or, invite a grieving mother to read this line about Rachel.
 Here, I would invite people to voice their questions, their cries, their laments. I would place a few in the congregation as “plants” with something already prepared, but invite people to spontaneously speak aloud a one sentence question or cry or lament.
Let us practice being ready
It doesn’t matter whether or not you can have faith;
whether or not you are cynical or despairing, hope-filled or hope-less:
what matters to God is simply that you are here.
We are entering the time of Advent, in preparation for Christmas.
Advent reminds us that if God is to be born again
in the most ordinary parts of our world and our lives
that we need prepare for it.
We need to make the space in our lives where love might be born.
Welcome to this tiny corner of a harsh and dark world.
Together, let us practice being ready in the faith that Christ will come. Cheryl Lawrie
Learning to walk in the dark (Barbara Brown Taylor)
‘Through darkness, we begin to see the world and sense God’s presence around us in new ways, guiding us through things seen and unseen, and teaching us to find our footing in times of uncertainty. Like seeds buried in the ground, we will find how darkness is essential for our own growth and flourishing’.
‘I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.
Recognising our tendency to associate all that is good with light, and all that is evil and dangerous with darkness, BBT asks whether God doesn’t work at night too?
In Advent, themes of light and dark are explored, often with light trumping the darkness. But maybe this duality is unhelpful. At Pilgrim, we are doing a study of BBT’s book as our Advent study this year. The wonderful Helen Wiltshire has penned some Advent introductions for our services in 2014 which will deliberately juxtapose hope with its opposite, love with its opposite etc and thereby explore the dark shadows, and discover God is in the darkness too.
Smuggling God into the world inside your own body
In a sermon about Mary’s response to God, Barbara Brown Taylor once said:
“If you decide to say no, you simply drop your eyes and refuse to look up until you know the angel has left the room and you are alone again. Then you smooth your hair and go back to your spinning or your reading or whatever it is that is most familiar to you and pretend that nothing has happened…. Or you can set your book down and listen to a strange creature’s strange idea. You can decide to take part in a plan you did not choose, doing things you do not know how to do for reasons you do not entirely understand. You can take part in a thrilling and dangerous scheme with no script and no guarantees. You can agree to smuggle God into the world inside your own body.
From “Mothers of God ” in Gospel Medicine
Reflection on consumerism and the realm of God
on Sojourners, by Scott Bessenecker
“The gospel ought to consume us; instead we have turned it into a consumable. I believe the good news about the reign of Christ over the all creation, the invitation to love our enemies, the vision of communities beating their weapons into agricultural implements, has been turned into a product. For many the gospel has been reduced to a privatized salvific experience purchased through a ministry outlet mall – the church dressed up like a coffee shop selling cups of Pumpkin Spice Saviour. When the gospel is reduced to a highly individualized and highly privatized experience, we lose the larger picture of God’s plan to make all things new. We see our part in God’s mission exclusively through the lens of producing a convert, not restoring the cosmos. If the gospel were only about words, then I suppose it could be wrapped in packaging and sold at gospel outlet malls. But its nature is cosmic and its purveyors are organic. It defies the easy reduction to a sales pitch. If the mission of God is the renewal and reconciliation of all things – people, planet, and powers – then the people of God need to be about the activities of God”.
Who’s birthday is it anyway? Advent Studies by Walter Brueggeman
- First Sunday of Advent (Being in Jeopardy, Impinged Upon)
- Second Sunday of Advent (Massive Purification, Deep Yearning)
- Third Sunday of Advent (Outrageous Hope, Unseemly Preparation)
- Fourth Sunday of Advent (Promises Kept Through the Lowly)
- Christmas Eve (When Heaven’s Hope Comes to Earth)
Click on the link for more resources……