Anticipating Advent — New studies, devotionals, planning aids
Advent 2016 begins on Sunday, Nov. 27. Abingdon Press and The Upper Room have 10 new studies and devotional books for congregations, small groups and individuals to use as they prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ.
All church, group, online studies
All I Want for Christmas: Designed for all church, small-group or individual study, All I Want for Christmas (Abingdon Press) is the newest study from the Rev. James W. Moore, now retired and minister-in-residence at Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas. All I Want for Christmas focuses on the amazing, life-changing gifts of Christmas that the miracle of God's grace gives us. Designed as a five-week study, elements include a study book for adults, DVD and leader guide, a youth study and a children's leader guide. The study book is available in large print and as an e-book.
Down to Earth: Down to Earth: The Hopes and Fears of All the Years Are Met in Thee Tonight (Abingdon Press) will challenge readers to form a down-to-earth, servant's faith, modeled after Christ. The adult component of the all-church, four-week study uses a book available in several formats and a DVD featuring 10-12-minute segments with the Rev. Mike Slaughter. Youth and children's studies explore the same themes. Co-authoring the study with Slaughter, lead pastor at Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Tipp City, Ohio, is the Rev. Rachel Billups, executive pastor of discipleship and part of the preaching team for Ginghamsburg.
God Is with Us: The 2016 study based on the scriptures from the Revised Common Lectionary is God Is with Us (Abingdon Press), written by the Rev. Robin Wilson, co-senior pastor of Dauphin Way United Methodist Church in Mobile, Alabama. The study is particularly useful in churches where pastors base their sermons on the lectionary Bible readings.
Prepare the Way: Prepare the Way (The Upper Room) is the newest devotional book from the Rev. Pamela C. Hawkins, author and pastor. In the four-week study and prayer book, Hawkins invites readers to prepare their hearts through guided prayer, readings from Isaiah and Matthew and brief reflections on four scriptural themes: peace, justice, fearlessness and faithfulness. Available in print and digital formats, the book is also the basis for an online course. Accessible at any time, each segment of the e-course will feature a video, an audio recording of a scripture passage, a chapter of reading and a place to interact with others.
The Redemption of Scrooge: Is redemption possible for Ebenezer Scrooge? The Rev. Matt Rawle believes so as he discovers the teachings of Jesus in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. In The Redemption of Scrooge: Connecting Christ and Culture (Abingdon Press), Rawle introduces Scrooge, as well as the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, and teaches about living with and for others in a world blessed by Jesus. Resources for the four-week study include the book, a DVD and a leader's guide.
Underdogs and Outsiders: In his Gospel, Matthew names five women in the family tree of Jesus: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and Mary. Underdogs and Outsiders: A Bible Study on the Untold Stories of Advent explores the stories of each of these five women, showing how they all played a pivotal role in God's purposes. Individuals and small groups can use the thematic Bible study during Advent. Each chapter offers discussion questions, a brief prayer and a focus for the week. The Rev. Tom Fuerst, associate teaching pastor at Christ United Methodist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, wrote the study.
Why This Jubilee?: In 24 reflections on well-known carols and Christmas songs, James Howell explores the birth of Jesus, pondering the meaning of certain phrases and relating them to daily living. Why This Jubilee?: Advent Reflections on Songs of the Season (The Upper Room) arranges the four weeks of devotions by topic: The Place, The Men (Joseph, shepherds, magi), The Mother and The Child. The content is available in print and digital books and through an online course. Learn more about the e-course or write UReLearning@UpperRoom.org
The Wonder of Christmas: Each chapter of The Wonder of Christmas: Once You Believe, Anything Is Possible (Abingdon Press) centers on one element of the Christmas story. It looks to both the Nativity story and the stories of people today to offer inspiration and ideas for reflecting the light of Jesus at Christmas and throughout the year. The Rev. Ed Robb, senior pastor, and the Rev. Rob Renfroe, pastor of discipleship at The Woodlands United Methodist Church in Houston, wrote the four-week study. It includes a study book, DVD and resources to use with children and youth.
Individual, family devotions
Advent: A Calendar of Devotions 2016: Advent: A Calendar of Devotions 2016 (Abingdon Press) contains brief readings for each day in Advent, including a suggested Scripture, a short devotion and a closing prayer. The Rev. Dale Clem, pastor of Monte Sano United Methodist Church, Huntsville, Alabama, wrote this year's devotions. Each offers an opportunity for spiritual renewal and preparation for the coming of the Christ child. Sold in packs of 10, the booklets are designed to fit in a #10 envelope.
Christmas Is Coming! But Waiting Is Hard!: Karen H. Whiting's newest book, Christmas Is Coming! But Waiting Is Hard! (Abingdon Press) contains family devotions connecting Jesus and the symbols of Advent and Christmas. Each day includes a devotional, prayer, questions to discuss, the meaning of a Christmas symbol and suggested activities to put the scriptures into action. Reproducible pages will help with the symbol activities.
Compiled by the Rev. Kathy Noble, editor, Interpreter and Interpreter OnLine.