Consider this Weekly an invitation to the inner work of Advent.

Even in 2020, it’s the season’s outer work that dominates many congregational leaders’ calendars. There’s worship to plan, pageants to adapt to Zoom, virtual holiday parties, Christmas Eve online and in-person. And that’s all before we factor in the personal commitments of the holidays.

This week, four writers invite us to recover inner disciplines that are at the heart of the season — waiting, watching and wondering. Enuma Okoro challenges us to see the wait as the thing we’ve been waiting for. Gretchen Ziegenhals encourages us to lean into divine mystery this Advent. Justin Coleman recounts stories of individual transformation that reawaken in us the meaning of the season. And finally, Kenneth Carder helps us name the longing for home that defines both Advent and all of human life.

Welcome to the Weekly. 

The wait might be the thing we're waiting for

The wait might be the thing we’re waiting for

While the practice of waiting can often feel like a burden, it may be the gift that God is trying to offer the world, says a popular author and speaker. That message may be perfect for this bizarre year.

Advent 2020 — leaning into divine mystery

In this poignant reflection, Gretchen Ziegenhals of Leadership Education at Duke Divinity reminds us that “when we watch, wait, listen and pay attention during Advent, we are giving up our easy certainty, our need for answers that are usually only a Google click away.”

Resources for Advent and Christmas

Stories of hope and second chances can inspire all Christians during Advent

A pastor in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, shares stories of people working to leave behind gangs, addiction and homelessness, and in the stories, we can all find hope, joy, peace and love.

Advent, and the longing for home

United Methodist Bishop Kenneth L. Carder found a new way to serve in retirement — as a chaplain at a memory care facility. This new ministry has shown the retired bishop a new layer of Advent’s meaning.

From the Alban Library

Four Seasons of Ministry: Gathering a Harvest of Righteousness

by Bruce G. Epperly and Katherine Gould Epperly

Four Seasons of Ministry

Ministers often find themselves caught in the day-to-day pressures of leading a congregation and yearn to experience the unfolding of their professional lives from a larger perspective. Four Seasons of Ministry serves as a guide for what you will find on your ministerial journey and gives meaning to the routine and repetitive tasks of ministry. Authors Bruce G. and Katherine Gould Epperly, each of whom has over 25 years of experience in various pastoral roles, invite clergy to see their ministries in the present as part of a life-long adventure in companionship with God, their loved ones, and their congregations. There is a time and a season to every ministry. Healthy and vital pastors look for the signs of the times and the gifts of each swiftly passing season, but they also take responsibility for engaging the creative opportunities of each season of ministry. Those who listen well to the gentle rhythm of God moving through their lives and the responsibilities and challenges that attend the passing of the years, vocationally as well as chronologically, will be amazed at the beauty and truth that shapes and characterizes the development of their ministries.

Before you go…

When I was a young child growing up in the mountains of North Carolina, my family took a road trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando. I don’t think we had reached the South Carolina border before I was asking my parents, “How much longer?” Every time I asked, their answer was the same: “two more hours.” Those were the longest two hours of my life!

Some years, that’s how Advent feels. It’s always “two more Sundays!” Yet, as Enuma, Gretchen, Justin and Ken have reminded us, the waiting, watching and wondering is what gives the season its meaning — and what makes the celebration at the end so sweet.

In this extraordinary year, may your Advent waiting bring you deep peace, real joy, lasting love and unexpected hope.

We’ll see you here next week. 

Nathan Kirkpatrick

Managing Director, Alban at Duke Divinity

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