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As you snack on the leftover Halloween candy in your house, Advent is right around the corner. It starts November 27, to be exact.

This fact may be a source of stress to some ministers. If the liturgical plans are not already in place, you now realize how much you need to do in a short amount of time. So many of us are still putting the finishing touches on Thanksgiving plans — not to mention that the nonstop media coverage of another contentious election cycle can be an irresistible distraction.

When you prepare your weekly Advent messages this year, try to avoid one of the pitfalls that can make the season fall flat for our congregations: sometimes we approach Advent as a historical event instead of a call to faithful action. We declare the good news that Israel’s Messiah has come while our congregation is waiting to hear what that means for their present reality. Where is the hope, peace, love and joy now?

Given what is happening on the local, national and global stage, what if we approached this Advent by intentionally connecting the good news of Israel’s long-awaited Messiah to the current crises and conflicts that confront our congregations, communities and individual members?

  • What does hope look like when it feels like cynicism has taken control of the public discourse?
  • How can we embrace peace without becoming passive in the face of injustice?
  • How do we embody love as political extremism and Christian nationalism accelerate racial and cultural division?
  • Why is the gift of joy a necessity for all rather than a luxury, and how can Christians be ambassadors of joy?

Much like Israel in the decades leading up to the birth of Christ, your people are waiting. Prayerfully, the resources for this week will help you and your congregation experience the fullness of the Advent season.


Before you go…

You already know the liturgical debates that accompany Advent. Should we sing Christmas carols or not? What colors should the Advent candles be? Traditions and rituals do play an important role in the formation and practice of faith. But let’s be honest: our beloved carols and the colors of the candles are probably not the most urgent issues we face. The real question is: how will we as pastors and worship leaders make the story of Advent come alive in our preaching today? How can we help those who are longing for real hope and joy know that their waiting has not been in vain?

Blessings on your preparation. You can always reach me and the Alban Weekly team at alban@duke.edu. Until next week, keep leading! 

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity