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Home > Interpreter Magazine > Archives > 2012 Archives > November-December 2012 > IM - 2 - Emphasis varies in Advent studies

E-retreat, new studies, devotions can enrich Advent for individuals, groups

By Kathy Noble

Although Dec. 2 – the first Sunday of Advent 2012 – is rapidly approaching, time remains to sign-up for a month-long e-retreat or choose another devotional or study to use during the season of preparation for celebrating Christ’s birth.

Studies in which individuals, families and small groups can immerse themselves in the words of Mary’s song, think about “living and giving as Jesus did,” explore the lectionary passages or walk the road to Bethlehem are among the new Advent resources from Abingdon Press and Upper Room Books.

Advent wreath meditations to use in home worship are among aids available from the General Board of Discipleship.

Also available are a one-session study that includes making birthing kits for the United Methodist Committee on Relief and Advent devotions from the Society of St. Andrew.

E-retreat will begin Nov. 30












Singing Mary’s Song: An Advent Message of Hope and Deliverance (Upper Room Books) by John A. Stroman focuses on various lines of Luke 1:46-55 during each week of Advent. The book is also the basis for a Web-based retreat, which begins Friday, Nov. 30, and ends Dec. 29.

The Upper Room and are collaborating to offer the retreat, which features:

  • daily meditations from Singing Mary's Song,
  • guided audio reflections and
  • opportunity for online discussion.

Individuals can participate in the retreat without purchasing the book, although retreatants will receive a discount.










“A Different Kind of Christmas” (Abingdon) is by the Rev. Mike Slaughter of Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church. It urges participants to bypass the overspending, overeating, materialism and busyness that rob the peace and joy of the season and rob Jesus of his rightful role as the center of the celebration. Those using the study will consider how to begin living and giving like Jesus during the Christmas season – and to continue all year.

Useful with all ages, the resources include:

  • “A Different Kind of Christmas” DVD with Leader Guide
  • A Different Kind of Christmas: Devotional Readings for the Season (available as print and e-book)
  • A Different Kind of Christmas – Youth Study
  • A Different Kind of Christmas – Children’s Study

Sermon starters and other resources for “A Different Kind of Christmas" produced for the Rethink Church initiative are available at











Explore the lectionary readings

Preparing the Way (Abingdon Press) by Sue Mink and Nan Duerling explores the Advent Scriptures from the Revised Common Lectionary. It encourages participants to claim the call to prepare their hearts, minds and lives for the coming of Jesus Christ in his birth and in his second coming. The student book includes the leader guide.

A silent gift

Individuals and groups can explore Silence and Other Surprising Invitations (Upper Room) by Enuma Okoro. The meditations for each day of Advent look at the doubts and longings of Zechariah and Elizabeth and the story of how they came to bear their only son, John.

Reflection questions and a prayer challenge accompany each week’s meditations encouraging readers to reflect on their own experiences of waiting and longing, of grief and the need for community, and of hungering for God.

“The Advent story we so often associate with the joy of Christmas actually begins with deep sorrow and longing. But thankfully, in the kingdom of God, there is always more to the story than meets the eye,” Okoro writes.















God Incarnate

When God Comes Down (Abingdon) by the Rev. James A. Harnish explores the meaning of the Incarnation. He encourages participants to think more deeply about the biblical, theological and spiritual meaning of the Nativity and apply it to their own experiences. In addition to looking at the lives of those mentioned in the biblical birth stories – Zechariah, Elisabeth, Joseph, Mary and Jesus – Harnish also looks at one who appears in Nativity plays but not the Bible – the innkeeper.

The book is available in print and as an e-book.











Travel with Mary and Joseph

During The Journey: Walking the Road to Bethlehem (Abingdon), the Rev. Adam Hamilton travels from Nazareth to Bethlehem, looking at the stories surrounding Jesus’ birth, adding historical information and archaeological data.

Useful for individual or group study during the four weeks of Advent, the resources include:

  • The Journey: Waking the Road to Bethlehem (book)
  • “The Journey” DVD with leader guide
  • The Journey: A Season of Reflections (devotional guide)
  • The Journey youth study (co-authored with Jason Gant)
  • The Journey children’s study (co-authored with Daphna Lee Flegal)












Connecting mothers

“Poor, Young and Pregnant: Mary’s Advent” is a one-session study prepared by Healthy Families, Healthy Planet.

Katey Zeh, project director of Healthy Families, Healthy Planet, describes “Mary’s Advent” as a unique venture in Bible study and advocacy. It “focuses on the first miracle of Christmas: Mary's safe labor and birth,” Zeh emphasizes.

She said the goal of this single-session study is to connect the stories of biblical mothers, focusing specifically on Mary, the mother of Jesus, with the realities that mothers around the world continue to face today.

Healthy Families, Healthy Planet is housed in the General Board of Church and Society in Washington, D.C.

Worship at home

Scripture, reflections and activities to use when first lighting each of the candles on the Advent wreath are among the ideas for family worship written by MaryJane Pierce Norton, associate general secretary for leadership  ministries, at the General Board of Discipleship in Nashville, Tenn. Shorter reflections are provided for relighting the candles throughout the week.

Norton also offers ways to use an Advent prayer chain, to make a family-blessing jar and the recall the story of the birth of Jesus.

 Devotions in your in-box

“Joy to the World” is the theme for the devotions the Society of St. Andrew will deliver daily by email. SoSa also offers a devotional booklet to use in congregations as part of a giving program to support the ministry. Information about the booklet is available by contacting the Rev. Jennifer Vestal Moore at (800) 333-5497 or

The Rev. Kathy Noble, editor, Interpreter and Interpreter OnLine,, publications of United Methodist Communications.

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