Advent 2010 | Notes on Advent Discussion

Some things to think about as we read and prepare to lead our people through these passages:
What does it mean that “all creation” is reconciled to God?
What is power?
What is the gospel? freedom, good news, The Story, Jesus Himself is the Gospel, He is God’s Word
What is evil in our world today? apathy, meaninglessness, value/worthless, consumerism/greed
Advent is about a joint effort of desperation/expectation for hope and light.  The Word of God is both threat and promise.
This is the story of God’s love, His new covenant, His creativity.  The original song of the church is “The Love of God” before it’s the law of God.
“Christmas Don’t Be Late” is a song of the hopeless.  They need a Savior, and His name is Jesus.
NEXT WEEK… Week by week overview of the scriptures for the 4 weeks of Advent.

Advent 2010 | Christmas Don’t Be Late

We had some great meetings up at OKC First the last few days and we got through a lot of discussion on who our churches are and how we can communicate the story/season of advent in a creative way.

some of the discussion that we had about advent was that our culture is so wrapped up in consumerism, especially during this season. some key thoughts were:
  • the scriptures found in Isaiah are to a people in exile.  who in our world is in exile?  what is exile for our church?  what is exile for our members?
  • we open up presents on Christmas day and yet are still unsatisfied because we go out the next day to shop more.  it’s an addiction to stuff. how can we break it?
  • consumerism is a form of exile for many people.  it is a desire to fill their life with stuff in order to gain worth, esteem, pride, etc.  when really we should be looking to God.
One of the key points that we want to make throughout the church year is that our salvation, the story of God’s people, does not begin with the individual.  We must avoid going straight for the individualistic conclusion of these passages and instead, begin with the corporate.  Once we do that, we can then bring it down to what is it saying to the individual, but we mustn’t start there.
“Christmas Don’t Be Late” is a song from the Alvin and the Chipmunks (cartoon as well as the live action/CG movies of recent date).  It speaks in no subtle way that Christmas is about getting gifts.  But we want to flip it on it’s head.  The phrase gets at the idea of Advent.  That Christmas is not here yet.  It’s coming, but it’s not here.  So for children in slavery in Africa, they need Christmas to get here.  They need freedom from their master.  The need Jesus to save them.  For people in our congregations, we need freedom from many things and we need Christmas to get here, but it’s not here yet.
The people of Israel, who are under the oppression of the Assyrians, as well as the Babylonians, (found in the Isaiah passages) need freedom.  They desire to be home once again.  They need a Savior.  Please, don’t be late.
Here are all the passages for the Advent and Christmas seasons, highlighting the passages we will be preaching from. Here are samples from Walter Bruggemann’s commentary on Isaiah (here’s vol. 2) so you can get an idea of what’s going on in the life of the Israelites.  Here are the references and prevailing thought that we came to for each week of Advent:

Isaiah 2:1-5 – Peace
Isaiah 11:1-10 – Reconciliation
Isaiah 35:1-10 – Hope
Isaiah 7:10-17 – Emmanuel (God With Us)

In the coming weeks, i will be posting some thoughts that we addressed at our meetings on each of the weeks of advent, christmas and epiphany.

If you have any other thoughts that you can remember and would like to share in relation to our meetings, please do so by clicking on “comments” below. /


The journals were a big success, especially the last set. People loved having the devotionals. Next season, I would love to do this again, but have devotionals in each one. Also, not sure how the scriptures were picked but they didn’t seem to follow any particular path and alot were repeated over and over – maybe if we start earlier we could have the scriptures guide them through either the gospels or old testament in some kind of order.
A few people actually said to me, What am I going to do now? I feel lost!
Jeanne NPR First

easter series: WE ARE FORGIVEN

We are excited about how well the “We Are Sorry” series has worked at catrow. it’s been a lot of difficult passages and teachings to hear from the scripture about our sins. We are looking forward to beginning the Easter to Pentecost series “We Are Forgiven.”

the same resources as the previous series are now available for download except maybe the video bumper. I’m hoping we’ll have it but it’s not guaranteed. i will send out emails when it is available.

again, we are all preaching from the Revised Common Lectionary (it can be found at and preaching what God leads to preach, focusing also on the corporate nature of forgiveness.

As our response, we’ve discussed providing time and resources for people to write their own story of forgiveness. And then having a place that you can post the stories. some type of wall thing that you post them on. maybe even an online blog that we could all post to. we’re still working out the details of this but would love any input you might have to make this work.

Grace and peace.


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lent series: WE ARE SORRY

i know we just hit epiphany but i wanted to let you know about the LENT series while it’s still fresh. yesterday, levi and i went up to SNU for a preaching workshop with William Willimon that was really good. afterward, we met with jon middendorf and jason smith from OKC First for a creative session about the Lent series that we wanted to partner for. this is what we came up with:

Big Idea:
The scriptures from the lectionary (Lent, Year C) are filled with corporate language so we want to emphasize corporate confession of sin. The Ash Wednesday liturgy from the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) continually has the the body of Christ confessing “forgive us for…forgive us for…” While every individual in the room may not suffer from what you’re confessing, we know that it is in our history, and is a part of the human experience and so we confess. We want to emphasize BEING the body of Christ together, not just confess your sins and live your life, but how can we together confess OUR sins and live OUR LIFE in such a way that the community around us is better for it. We as a Church must acknowledge our failings. So the title of the series is: WE ARE SORRY.

Just think of what that would mean for a person who is far from God, who will never give God a chance because of what they’ve seen the Church or Christians do, if they saw on your church sign or in your front lawn “We Are Sorry.” We believe that could change your community’s perspective of the body of Christ.

The Scripture:
You can find the scripture choices for each week at Catalyst is going to stick to the Gospel passages but OKC First is going to be using different passages each week (some from the OT, Psalms, Epistles, and Gospels). Whatever scripture you choose from the lectionary will be fine.

Visual Idea:this is the poster for the series. the look will be in all the other resources. (see RESOURCES at the bottom of this post)

Creative Idea:
At the Ash Wednesday service (and throughout the season of Lent) we will have a big piece of paper on the wall (or wherever you put it) that people will confess sins, corporate and personal, writing them on the paper with invisible marker that only shows up with a black light. We will also have little pieces of the brown paper with two-sided tape and whole string for people to receive ashes (they stick to the tape) and then to hang in a prominent place (rear view mirror, etc.) throughout Lent.

We’ve decided to go with finding some round tables and wrapping the tops of the tables with the brown paper. We felt like the tables would allow for more people to be able to write on the paper. We will have them set up around the worship area for people to write on throughout Lent. We’ll also have a small print of the “We Are Sorry” graphic attached to the middle of the table. However you decide to have them right on the paper is fine.

At the Good Friday service, the people will come in and we’ll have panels displayed on stage, as well as 11 candles, plus the Christ candle, for the 12 readings of Christ’s road to the cross (for more ideas on a TENEBRAE service, click here, we aren’t following everything stated, but it’ll give you a better understanding of how to actually pull it off). With each reading a candle will be extinguished, and we will draw one leg of a cross (each cross has 4 ‘legs’, bottom, top, left, right). We’re going to have 3 panels so at the end (3 panels x 4 legs = 12 readings), each panel will have a completed cross and as we extinguish the Christ candle, and the room goes completely dark, the blacklights reveal that the cross was painted over OUR sin for an incredible reveal. (the blacklights will be on the whole time, but since the room has other light, you can’t truly see what’s on the paper till the very end and the room is completely dark.) Some people hit a gong or make a loud noise to symbolize the stone rolling in front of the tomb. Everyone leaves in silence till Sunday morning when the celebration begins!

Below are some websites where you can find the materials needed online. You may be able to find them in your town as well.

For Ash Wednesday:
Here is our service script and order.

Brown wrapping paper in different lengths. Also, Office Depot will probably have some in stock. When I called they had 24″ x 50′ (that’s 100 sqft) for $4.99.

Blacklight markers: $4.95 for 2 or $19.99 for a kit to make 25 makers (I just got my kit and put them all together and will test them out tomorrow on brown paper and little blacklight that i have.)

For Good Friday:
Blacklights you can get from any lighting store in your area. We are going to rent 2 400 watt black light lamps for $25 a piece. You could also buy the blacklight tubes (the look like flourescent tubes). I can get 48″ tubes for $18.95 without the fixture. I’m checking on the cost of fixtures at home depot tomorrow. The key to the blacklight working is that there be no other light bleeding on the paper.

Journals (optional):
We will also have for around $3.25 a piece, a companion journal that would be supplemental to the Lent season. It will NOT have the “we are sorry” graphics on it, but will have daily scripture readings, a guide for reflection and space to journal. It will also have a foreword by Jon Middendorf and a few devotional thoughts for some of the special days of the Lenten Season. If you would like to purchase journals the deadline is January 28th.

Check back soon as we will have info on the sequel series for Easter to Pentecost: WE ARE FORGIVEN


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advent 2009: Christmas time is (almost) here

we decided on our advent series and i worked on all the designs yesterday so that i could get them up here for you.

we’re following the gospel passages for the weeks of advent and Christmas. here they are with a link to read them. (remember, advent is 2-fold. we put our selves in the shoes of the jews waiting for the messiah, but we also await is second coming. thought i’d put that out there.)

Nov. 29 – Luke 21:25-36 – Jesus talking about his second coming
Dec. 6 – Luke 3:1-6 – John the baptist on the scene
Dec. 13 – Luke 3:7-18 – John the baptist calls out the Pharisees
Dec. 20 – Luke 1:39-56 – Mary’s Song

Dec. 27 – Luke 2:41-52 – Jesus at the temple as a child
Jan. 3 – John 1:1-18 – John’s prologue, The Word

We’re also utilizing the advent wreath scripture and meditations found here.

Here’s the list of graphic resources we have:

logo (color, b&w)
horizontal logo (color, b&w)
main slide (16×9)
sermon background slide (16×9)
podcast graphic
website corner
ad graphic (for website, bulletin, etc)
vertical banner – 33.5″ x 59″
poster – 11″ x 14″

just email me at if you would like to utilize any of these resources.
note: once Christmas hits, we’ll just take out the “almost” and be set for those 2 sundays before epiphany.

we also ordered our journals. we will be doing 4 journals and they won’t necessarily be directly tied to our “series” but will be following the gospel reading for the daily office lectionary, year 2. these are meant as supplementary material that would lead people through the story of Christ every day and sundays would preach from the lectionary, year c.

Church Calendar Journals (Year C)

This year, as we go through the church calendar, we are going to do a journal for each of the seasons. Sometimes they will basically just list the scripture and then an easy guide to reflection, and then some space to write. Other times, we may have more of a devotional style book.

We can get these books for around $3.98 a piece which is cheaper than printing them yourself, or trying to get some cardstock fold-n-staples done at kinkos.

Advent-Christmas Journal will run from Nov. 29 – Jan. 3.

Please email (or comment) if you are nterested in purchasing the Advent-Christmas Journals for your church.