Advent in a Jar – A New Resource by Jill Aylard Young

I realize that it is a little late for Advent this year but I wanted to share with you the resource that MSA Board member put together after reading resources recommended in the post Celebrating Advent with Kids . It might be a little late for this year but certainly something to consider for next year.

Advent in a jar by Jill Aylard Young

The attached PDF file contains all you need to build your own “Advent Calendar in a Jar”. Simply download the file, print out the pages, and cut the paper into little cards to put in your own Jar. On these slips of paper are activities that you can do as a family or individual in preparation for Christmas.

You will choose 24 slips of paper for your Jar, one for each day of Advent. Then during Advent you will draw one slip out of the jar each day and complete the activity until all the slips are gone and Christmas has arrived. (Note: If you can’t complete a particular activity on the day you draw it, schedule it on your calendar for another day and draw a different one for that day.)

  1. Pray for Christ to bless this project so that it will create space in your life or family’s life for his presence and working in you this Advent/Christmas season.
  2. Decide whether this is something you want to do as an individual or as a family. The slips of paper with stars are geared for families and those with candles are geared for individuals. Feel free to mix and match if you like.
  3. Choose 24 activities2 that would be doable for you and/or your family, but also ones that will stretch you in helpful ways. You can select from the pre-made slips of paper and you can use blank ones to write your own. Also try to select a variety of activities, those that are service-oriented, those that are fun, and those that are reflective.
  4. Fold each slip of paper and place it in your jar, which you can decorate as you choose.

Have Fun as you anticipate the coming of our Lord!


Pre-Advent Specials

‘Tis the Season for special buys – or so goes the marketing madness of our day. MSA books and resources directly help support staff and the development of more resources. We don’t make a big deal about marketing because we want to maintain a bit of a counter-cultural environment. From time to time, however, we do want to make available special deals you will enjoy, like these resources for the Advent season.

Pre-Advent Special

    • Special #1
      Get Christine’s newest book, Return to our Senses: Reimagining How We Pray, along with favorites, Waiting For the Light: An Advent Devotional and Light For the Journey: Morning and Evening Prayers for Living Into God’s World, all for only $30!

advent DVD-sm

    • Special #2
      Advent reflection video DVD set (2007-2001)plus 2012 – “Alleluia, the Christ Child Comes” only $40!

download advent series

  • Special #3
    Download version of the Advent DVD set, including 2012 – “Alleluia, the Christ Child Comes” only $35!

Getting Ready For A Blue Christmas – a New Resource List

Night candle

ready for a Blue Christmas

Christmas is approaching. I know it must be so because Santa Clause has already invaded the stores and TV is alive with holiday cheer… and there are only 43 days to go!

For many this season is anything but cheerful, even when we have not had to put up with non stop Christmas music for days before hand. For those who have lost loved ones , lost a job, are struggling financially or with illness this not an easy season. And for those who have lost their houses and livelihoods due to the devastation of Sandy and other disasters this year, the season will probably be anything but cheerful, so why do we try to cover our pain and grief with Yuletide cheer?

Many churches have begun to recognize that Festivals of Carols, celebrations of Christmas, and children’s pageants do not meet everyone’s needs. To fill this gap churches offer a Blue Christmas service, a Service of Solace or Longest Night. People who are not having a very merry Christmas and friends who support them are invited to come and sit with one another in a liturgy that speaks of the love of God for the grieving.

Here are some great resources that could help if you want to plan or participate in a Blue Christmas service:

Text of the Week has some great resources for planning a Blue Christmas service. (scroll down the Advent resources until you get to Blue Christmas).

Stephens Ministries also lists ideas for celebrating this season.

I also like this simple but powerful Blue Christmas Service and the ideas for how to use it.

These prayer suggestions from Mental Health Ministries.

And this beautiful Liturgy of Remembrance for Advent and Christmas.

Let me end with this beautiful prayer by Ted Loder which appears in Guerrilas of Grace 

O God of all seasons and senses, grant us the sense of your timing to submit gracefully and rejoice quietly in the turn of the seasons.

In this season of short days and long nights,
of grey and white and cold,
teach us the lessons of endings;
children growing, friends leaving, loved ones dying,
grieving over,
grudges over,
blaming over,
excuses over.

O God, grant us a sense of your timing.
In this season of short days and long nights,
of grey and white and cold,
teach us the lessons of beginnings;
that such waitings and endings may be the starting place,
a planting of seeds which bring to birth what is ready to be born—
something right and just and different,
a new song, a deeper relationship, a fuller love—
in the fullness of your time.

O God, grant us the sense of your timing.

Lead Us Forward Lord

Hands with Joshua tree

Hands with Joshua tree

This morning I posted this prayer on Facebook 

Lead us forward Lord,
Let us hold firm to your words of life.
Lead us forward Lord,
Let us delight in your perfections,
And meditate on your ways.
Lead us forward Lord,
You are our light and our salvation,
You are our rock and our fortress,
Lead us forward Lord,
You alone hold the keys to eternal life.

Maybe it is because I am just back from Australia and still on jetlag, maybe it is because Advent is just around the corner (begins December 2nd), maybe it is because I just ordered the first copies of Return to our Senses and am feeling the wonder of having completed this project or maybe it is because the U.S. elections are over and all of us sense the need for direction from God and not from our political leaders. Whatever it is, I feel that this is a great season of the year for reflection and refocusing.

Now is the time to store up the resources we need to stir our imaginations and create new rituals and expressions of faith that guide us through the fast approaching season of Advent in which our hearts ache for the coming of God’s light.

As usual I will host an Advent reflection series during December – I may even begin a little early because Advent is so short this year – just over 3 weeks long. Our theme this year is Let Us Wait As Children WaitThere is still time to participate. So if you would like to contribute a post do let me know.

Also if you are looking for Advent devotionals this year don’t forget Waiting for the Light: A Devotional for Advent and Christmas. It is available in both book and ebook form.

Friday I hope to post my new Advent video for the year but you may also like to check out these videos from previous years.

I also plan to update my Advent resource list early next week so if there are books, websites or other resources that you feel are must haves or must see for the season please let me know.

More Resources for Advent 2011

There are so many good resources out there for Advent this year that it is a little overwhelming trying to discern which ones to take notice of. Here are some of my favourites – some new some old, that I have come across in the last week or so.

I have already mentioned John Van de Laar’s book There’s A Ne World Coming and Advent in Two Minutes – An Introduction to the Season but these are both such excellent resources that I wanted to make sure that I highlighted them again.

Intervarsity’s Emerging Scholar’s blog is hosting a series this Advent. I particularly enjoyed this post: Why Bother with Advent. 

And Chris Smith is hosting another series on the SlowChurch blog. based on Daily Readings of the Revised Common Lectionary. I particularly enjoyed his first post Fear Not 

This post on Celebrating Advent with Kids and if you know of other resources that should be added to this list I would love to hear from you.

Bosco Peters in New Zealand has excellent liturgical resources available and Tom and I are particularly enjoying the lectionary readings that he has put together for this year.

For those who are looking for sermon ideas and a vast array of resources beyond my ability to put together visit visit Their resources for Advent are outstanding.

For a more extensive list of links to a rich array of resources in the UK check out Big Bible

Last but not least I came across this Taize song today – it seemed a very appropriate start to the Advent season.

jesus Is Coming – What Do We Expect?

virgin mary from

African Virgin Mary with child from

A few days ago I invited you to join us for Advent beginning with a synchroblog November 23rd and moving through Advent with daily reflections drawn both from these and other contributions. Here are the first of those links which will be reposted on this blog together with other contributions throughout the Advent season. Enjoy!

What Are We Waiting For This Advent – The Entire Series

Many thanks to all those who participated in the series What Are We Waiting For This Advent? Even though Advent is over there is still a lot of interest in the posts from this series.  For many of us these days after Christmas Day – the Christmas season which ends with the Eve of Epiphany, are much more relaxed than those before so it is a great time for some quiet reflection.

So if you want to take advantage of time for some quiet reflection here is the entire list:

Fourth Week of Advent:

Still Waiting – An Advent Reflection by Christina Whitehouse Suggs

Awaiting the Morning – An Advent Reflection by Brad Culver

On the Side of the Rebel Jesus – A Christmas Carol by Jackson Browne

Advent Waiting on the Cancer Journey – reflection by Jill Aylard

Third Week of Advent

Habbakkuk Revisited – An Advent Reflection by Dave Timmer

Amazing Grace Christmas Lights

The Least Likely – An Advent reflection by Kathy Escobar

We Don’t Invite Jesus Into Our Lives, He Invites Us into His – An Advent reflection by Jason Clark

Patience in A Time of Distraction – An Advent reflection by Thomas Turner

A Cynic’s Hope – An Advent Reflection by Ryan Marsh

Waiting Without Busyness – Reflection By Greg Rickel Bishop of Olympia

Advent – We Don’t Know What We Are Waiting For by Ed Cyzewski

A Journey of Longing – Advent Reflection by Tara Malouf

Second Week of Advent:

Second Monday of Advent – My Violin Advent by Barb Buckham

Second Monday of Advent – Waiting Disagreeably for the Prince of Peace

Second Tuesday of Advent – Waiting Down Under by Andrew Wright

An Australian Christmas Carol

Second Wednesday of Advent – What Does Copenhagen Have to do with Jerusalem by Malcolm Duncan

Second Wednesday of Advent – More Advent Resources

Second Wednesday of Advent – Advent Waiting a poem by Andrew Wade

Second Thursday of Advent – Finding the Christ in Christmas by James Prescott

Second Friday of Advent – Waiting Without a Calendar by Kristin Tennant

Waiting for the Lord – Music From Taize

Waiting for the Homecoming of God – A Liturgical Reflection

First Week of Advent

The First Sunday of Advent

First Monday of Advent: Reflections from Mosaic Bible and Lynne Baab

First Tuesday of Advent: Waiting for a Job – Reflections by Coe Hutchison & Judy Naegeli

World AIDS Day – What Are We Waiting For

Shifting Your Wait: An Advent Reflection by Jason Fowler

First Wednesday of Advent – Waiting: A Reflection by Julie Clawson

First Thursday of Advent – Actively Waiting in Newness of Life – David Bayne

Waiting for the Advent of Light – Christine Sine

Advent Reflections by Karl Westerhoff on the Loss of A Daughter

Let Our Eyes Be Opened – Advent Reflection by Kimberlee Conway Ireton

First Saturday of Advent: Holy Waiting – A Reflection by Liz Dyer

You may also like to check out some of these other entries with Advent resources

Celebrating Advent With Kids

Daily Bible Readings For Advent

The Coming of the Lord is Near – An Advent Meditation Video for 2009

Second Wednesday of Advent – More Great Resources

One of my challenges during the Advent season is which devotional to use and which scripture series to follow.  This year I have had so many options that I have tended to go from one to another.  Which is probably not good as this is the season that sets the pattern for the coming year.

To be honest I hesitate to recommend books, CDs and other resources too because I struggle constantly with the tension between becoming just another consumption driving machine.  On the other hand I know that reading, listening and reflecting do all expand our understanding of God, grow our faith and hopefully equip us to be more engaged as God’s compassionate response to our needy world.  And as someone who reads 3 – 5 books a week I obviously have an addiction that needs to be fed.  So having said all that I am still going to recommend some more great resources.

One of the best books I have come across recently is Joan Chittister’s The Liturgical Year. She talks about the liturgical year as

an adventure in bringing the Christian life to fullness, the heart to alertness, the soul to focus.  It does on concern itself with the questions of how to make a living.  It concerns itself with the questions of how to make a life…..

The liturgical year it the year that sets out to attune the life of the Christian to the life of Jesus, the Christ.  It proposes, year after year, to immerse us over and over again into the sense and substance of the Christian life until, eventually, we become what we say we are – followers of Jesus all the way to the heart of God.  The liturgical year is an adventure in human growth, an exercise in spiritual ripening.  (p4 & 6)

For this and other great liturgical resources visit my favourite independent bookstore – Hearts and Minds Books And they are not just my favourite because Bryan likes my books.  I love the personal knowledge of what is in the bookstore and the personal help that people like Bryan are able to give.

The other resource list that is worth a look is from  They have just published a great Ultimate Christmas Resource List! with some worthwhile suggestions on it.

So if like me you are addicted to reading, writing and reflecting here is some more great material to delve into.

End of the First Week of Advent – What are We Waiting for – the Posts so Far

This first week of Advent has been a wonderful opportunity to explore different aspects of our Christian journey as all of us wait for the coming of Christ.  Some of us wait in joyful expectation, others wait in the midst of heartache and pain,  all of us wait with hope and anticipation for the promises of God to be fulfilled.

The First Sunday of Advent

First Monday of Advent: Reflections from Mosaic Bible and Lynne Baab

First Tuesday of Advent: Waiting for a Job – Reflections by Coe Hutchison & Judy Naegeli

World AIDS Day – What Are We Waiting For

Shifting Your Wait: An Advent Reflection by Jason Fowler

First Wednesday of Advent – Waiting: A Reflection by Julie Clawson

First Thursday of Advent – Actively Waiting in Newness of Life – David Bayne

Waiting for the Advent of Light – Christine Sine

Advent Reflections by Karl Westerhoff on the Loss of A Daughter

Let Our Eyes Be Opened – Advent Reflection by Kimberlee Conway Ireton

First Saturday of Advent: Holy Waiting – A Reflection by Liz Dyer

You may also like to check out some of these other entries with Advent resources

Celebrating Advent With Kids

Daily Bible Readings For Advent

The Coming of the Lord is Near – An Advent Meditation Video for 2009

First Monday of Advent – What Are We Waiting For this Advent?

Advent has begun, and we have lit the first candle on our Advent wreath. As we move into this first week there are a number of thoughts I want to share as we ponder the question What Are We Waiting For This Advent Season? For those that have not yet started their Advent scripture readings you can check out various Advent reading options here.  Then spend some time meditating on the reflections below.

First listen to this beautiful reflection on Advent by Mathew Woodley condensed from the weekly meditations in the Mosaic Bible.

Our culture often fosters a complacent, blase, smug approach to Christianity.  In the words of C.S. Lewis, We are far too easily pleased, We’re happy to numb and freeze our restless ache for a better world.

Advent is the season of the church year that ignites that longing in our herats.  Before we rush into Happy Holidays, we pause and let longing rise up within us.  Throughout Advent we catch glimpses of a better world.

And as we catch glimpses of this Messiah-healed world, we long for its coming now.  All of the best Advent hymns capture this spirit of groaning and longing for messiah’s better world.  When we sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,with its dark, unresolved melody, it cracks our hearts open with longing’s wounds.  And yet, we know Messiah has come, even as we wait for him to come again.  Advent is a deliciously painful mix of joy and anguish.

This Advent-like longing is at the heart of Christian spirituality…. C.S. Lewis claimed that in this life the Advent-like stab of longing serves as a spiritual homing device, placed deep in our heart by God to lead us back to him….

Advent trains us to  ache again.  Of all the seasons of the church year, Advent is the time to acknowledge, feel and even embrace the joyful anguish of longing for Messiah’s birth and the world’s rebirth.  So we sing our aching songs while we light candles and festoon the church wit h greenery.  This is Advent longing, and we couldn’t imagine it any other way.

Second here is the posts that I have received for the series What are we Waiting for this Advent Season? It comes from Lynne M. Baab the author of several books, including Reaching Out in a Networked WorldSabbath Keeping, and Fasting. She teaches pastoral theology at the University of Otago in New Zealand.

In a poem called “Reflection,” Irish/English poet Evangeline Paterson describes life after death using the metaphor of a party. The party is happening “somewhere else,” and the light and music escape “in snatches/to make the pulse beat.” Those glimpses of energy and joy at the party come to us briefly, and they are muted and faint because they come from so far away.

With my natural melancholic outlook on life, I’m all too aware of the brokenness of the world around me and the brokenness that dwells inside me. I have moments of utter joy when God’s goodness explodes into my heart. I have moments when I feel the peace that passes all understanding. I have moments when I feel deep gratitude for God’s grace and care, and prayers of thankfulness come naturally. Frankly, I don’t know if I could live without those moments.

But they are only moments. Very rarely does that deep joy, peace or gratitude last for an hour, and even more rarely for a whole day or week. All I get is glimpses, snatches of music and energy coming from the party that is happening somewhere else. I’m waiting for the time when I arrive at that party, when all tears will be wiped away, and God’s presence will be a light that shines so brightly it can’t be missed (Rev. 21:4, 23). I’m waiting for the day when I can know God fully as I am fully known (I Cor. 13:12).

Advent has always been a time of remembering that we wait for the fulfillment of what we have already experienced in snatches. I’ve always enjoyed pondering the notion that that the Holy Spirit is a deposit (or down payment, seal, or pledge) on the inheritance we will receive in Christ (Eph. 1:13, 14). It is the Holy Spirit who makes possible those glimpses of the party, those snatches of light and music. I’m so deeply grateful for the Spirit, this gift that God has given us.

One of my challenges as a naturally melancholy person is to do all I can to enjoy God’s gifts to me in the present. With the guidance and empowering of the Holy Spirit, I’ve trained myself to practice thankfulness, pay attention to the daily gifts in my life, and see the half-full glass as much as possible. Advent is a wonderful season for me, when waiting as a significant part of the Christian life is affirmed. In Advent, I can settle back into my natural posture of longing for the day when God’s promises will be fulfilled. The day that God’s presence – full of light and music – will surround me, and I won’t experience  it only in snatches.