By Nina Simone
With fall in full swing, Advent will soon be upon us. Busy as December is, Advent invites people into spiritual reflection unlike any other time of year. Whether they are looking for rest from the frantic holiday pace or still able to connect the season with childlike wonder, members of your community might be open to participating in a short-term group or study in hopes of experiencing Advent in a new way. And while there are endless books about Christmas, finding a curriculum to move your particular gathering through the season in a thoughtful and captivating way can prove more challenging. Here are a few resources that may help.
- The PC(USA)’s “Being Reformed” series, which provides six-week studies for adults on the foundations of the Reformed faith, offers “Illuminating Advent” for groups during this sacred season. Expanding on the themes of Advent – hope, love, joy and peace – “Illuminating Advent” provides in-depth commentary by biblical scholars as well as questions for meditation and discussion. An accompanying leader’s guide equips the facilitator and provides supplementary suggestions for sessions.
- Kerygma offers two studies on Advent. The first, “Hallelujah,” consists of four sessions on Advent and six sessions on Lent, which can be divided into two studies or combined into one 10-week study. “Hallelujah” examines the Scriptures used in Handel’s “Messiah,” making it a particularly meaningful lens of study for the music lovers in your group – and for those who become music lovers in December every year.
- Kerygma’s second Advent study, “The Light Will Shine,” involves five sessions that cover Advent themes of “Watchful Expectancy,” “John the Baptizer,” “The Fulfillment of All Promises,” “The Dawning of Day” and “Epiphany.” Both Kerygma studies are text- and information-rich, making them excellent for those who enjoy learning in a traditional classroom style.
- Adam Hamilton’s “Walking the Road to Bethlehem” has gained popularity over the past few years. A five-session DVD study, with a comprehensive leader guide as well as components for youth and children’s studies, this curriculum is user-friendly for a range of group sizes and needs. The leader guide includes session plans, discussion questions and a range of format options to customize the study for your group in nontraditional ways.
- Both “Awaiting the Already” by Magrey R. deVega and “Advent in Narnia” by Hannah Haverkamp are written as devotionals, yet offer group discussion and reflection questions after each chapter. “Awaiting the Already” examines Advent through the lens of the four Gospels, finishing with a look at the Book of Titus, which deVega calls “Paul’s Christmas Letter.” “Advent in Narnia,” certain to connect with the large following of C.S. Lewis’ classic series, uses themes of winter, waiting, betrayal, sacrifice and spring to emphasize grace and the gospel during the Advent season. Haverkamp also includes instruction and inspiration for creating a “Narnia Night” for congregations.
- Finally, if Advent is a time when you hope for your community to move out of its regular groups and join together in an intergenerational event, the WE Intergenerational series of the Christian Reformed Church offers a guide for a one-time Advent event, “WE: Expectations.” WE events are simple, inexpensive and focused on enabling people of all ages to connect over a meal and message that they explore together. The WE event guides come with program outlines, supply lists, planning and setup tips and reproducible pages to copy.
Advent calls us to prepare for the coming of Christ. Without engaging in Advent, we risk arriving at Christmas hurried and tired, missing the mystery and beauty about which we love to sing. One of these studies may provide the tools for you to invite your community to a slower, more connected way of experiencing the season together.
NINA SIMONE is in her final year at Union Presbyterian Seminary studying Christian education. With experience in teaching in children, student and adult ministries, Nina is excited to be interning at the Outlook and writing in the areas of theology and faith formation. Nina and her husband Travis live in Williamsburg, Virginia, with their four daughters.