Preaching Connection: Advent

Additional content related to Advent

Luke 3:7-18

Last week we ended with a consideration of the possibility that these two Advent weeks spent in chapter 3 could be viewed as the covenant obligations on display. Verses 1-6 highlight what God will achieve, and here in verses 7-18 we receive the invitation from God (through the prophet John) to respond to God’s activity….

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Luke 21:25-36

Diana Butler Bass says it well when she reflects on the way we get right into it. “Advent 1 slaps us with the uncertainty and violence of human history.” From the get go, we’re told that there will be natural signs of turmoil, political distress, and chaos will hover over the earth, seemingly inescapable. Fear…

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Jeremiah 33:14-16

Acoustics are so key.  How does a text sound?  Usually you need to pay attention to the context to figure that out.  But when you dive into the middle of a text like this lection, you can so easily miss or forget that wider context.  But remembering it can change the acoustics pretty significantly.  After…

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Psalm 25:1-10

When I read Psalm 25, I find myself drawn to its utter realism. If you enter into the rhythms and patterns of these verses, what you will find is probably something akin to your own life. If you are like most people, including most Christian people, then the pattern of your piety is probably something…

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Advent 1: God’s Hopeful Story

This is a season of the year in which many of us find ourselves teetering between nostalgia and cynicism. We feel the tug of Christmas past. At the grocery store the other day I was encouraged by the muzak to “have myself merry little Christmas”, but the only way to do that, the song said,…

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Advent 3: Real Repentance

Homiletics is the theological term for the study and craft of sermon making. Seminarians take a couple of courses on homiletics of course, and there are lots of books on homiletics written for the guidance of preachers. Nowadays, there’s a lot of emphasis on the introductions of sermons. The theory is that the modern audience…

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Advent 4: Pregnant

Last May, Jeanne and I toured Turkey. One of the highlights was our visit to Ephesus. Ephesus, the biblical city, is now magnificent ruins, in fact probably the greatest ruins in the whole Middle East. We were staying at our hotel in the Aegean resort city of Kushadasi, a boisterous, glitzy place. The ruins of…

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Christmas

My youngest child Anton was born early one November morning. It was not an easy birth. We didn’t know it at the time, but his mother Judy was already experiencing the first symptoms of MS from which she later died, when Anton was 18. She was exhausted. I let her sleep for a couple of…

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Advent 2: The Shrill One

John was on a roll. For quite some time he had been preaching a fiery message to all kinds of people and with splendid results. They came to him in droves and responded to his message with genuine fervor. That is quite amazing given that John was not exactly what anyone would consider “seeker-friendly.” Today…

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Advent 1: At That Time

When I was in high school, I accompanied a friend to a youth group New Year’s Eve party at a local Pentecostal church. Mostly the party was what you would expect: lots of goodies to eat, pop to drink, games to play. But at one point in the evening all of us were gathered in…

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Advent 1: In the Interim

We live in between the first coming of Jesus Christ and his second coming, and most of us feel a lot better about the first one.  Christmas is about a baby, after all, and that makes everything easier.  We know about babies, and so we know how to domesticate Christmas.  We set up a creche,…

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Christmas: Home

“Are you going home for Christmas?” What question has been more commonplace in recent weeks? A little over a week ago while I was at the supermarket, I was already pondering this sermon, including that opening line, “Are you going home for Christmas?” Startlingly, as I walked through the store, I heard some version of…

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Mark 1:1-8

Imagine yourself a Kindergarten teacher who gathers a group of wide-eyed five-and six-year-olds onto the square of carpeting in the classroom that is reserved for “Story Time.”  You smile into their innocent faces and begin your story. “Once upon a time a little girl named Goldilocks was fast asleep in a lovely little bed—a bed…

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Mark 13:24-37

Maybe nearing the end of 2020 it is not at all difficult to bend people’s thoughts to all things apocalyptic.  Most years when the Lectionary reading for the First Sunday in Advent directs us to the Olivet Discourse and Jesus’ words about the end of the world, it can be a stretch to do the…

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Matthew 3:1-12

“Across the United States in recent weeks, there have been tidal waves of accusation and blame, counter-accusations and blame, judgments and more judgments from the left and from the right and from all points in between.  Political parties are said to have been judged by the voters.  Individual politicians are said to have been repudiated…

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Luke 1:39-45 (46-56)

We like musicals.  Back in the day Hollywood turned out a great many films in this genre, though in recent years the movie musical has been pretty well restricted to Disney films like Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin.  A recent exception was the exceptional La La Land that somehow managed to capture the power,…

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Micah 5:2-5a

This is the quintessential Advent text, because it was so clearly fulfilled in the birth of Christ. In Matthew 2: 5, the chief priests and teachers of the law answer Herod’s frantic question about the birthplace of the long promised King of the Jews.  “In Bethlehem of Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the…

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Hebrews 10:5-10

What on earth is this whole Christmas business about?  Why is it worth all the effort so many people put into celebrating it?  To answer that, not just the Church but also the world needs to know just why Jesus came to be not only born in Bethlehem, but also to grow up to live,…

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Luke 3:7-18

Well what did you expect John would say?  His preaching was getting through to the people.  Bigly.  His “in your face” approach to getting a message of repentance across was succeeding and before you knew it, John’s got people of all sorts asking “What should we do?”  And in response to this earnest query, what…

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Philippians 4:4-7

The Bible is full of commands to “Rejoice.”  Yet they’re not always calls to God’s people to just “be happy.”  After all, the Scriptures’ calls to rejoice sometimes seem to come in the context of the least happy times and places. For example, the Paul who writes the Epistolary Lesson the Lectionary assigns for this…

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Luke 1:68-79

Someone once said that visits always bring pleasure because even if the arrival of a certain visitor didn’t make you happy, his departure will!  The comedic pianist Victor Borge also touched on this topic when he once noted that the mythic figure of Santa Claus has the right idea: you should visit people just once…

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Philippians 1:3-11

This second Sunday of the month of December seems like an appropriate time to explore Philippians 1:3-11.  Its theme of thanksgiving is, after all, consistent with the Thanksgiving holiday that Americans recently celebrated.  What’s more, this Sunday is also near the beginning of the Advent season in which we look forward to “the day of…

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Luke 3:1-6

I love Luke.  The man has style.  And he displays that style in narrative after narrative in his Gospel and in his sequel, The Book of Acts.  Tradition has it Luke was a doctor.  He clearly came mighty close to missing his calling.  Thankfully, the Spirit used Luke’s considerable literary powers after all to give…

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Malachi 3:1-4

A number of years ago I preached a series of sermons on the Minor Prophets entitled “The Gospel in a Minor Key.”  Obviously, that was a play on words, but it also reflected the fact that these unusual little prophetic books proclaim the Good News in unexpected, dissonant, almost off-key ways.  Our text for this…

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Psalm 25:1-10

When I read Psalm 25, I find myself drawn to its utter realism.  If you enter into the rhythms and patterns of these verses, what you will find is probably something akin to your own life.  If you are like most people, including most Christian people, then the pattern of your piety is probably something…

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1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

This first Sunday in the season of Advent liturgically marks the beginning of a season of waiting.  Not just of waiting to celebrate Jesus’ first coming.  Advent is also the season in which God’s adopted sons and daughters at least try to concentrate on waiting for Jesus’ second coming. We’ve had 2,000 years of practice…

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Luke 21:25-36

For Luke “as it was in the beginning” might be a good slogan to encapsulate his Gospel’s conclusion.  Because when Luke began, we heard a lot of very dramatic rhetoric as to what the coming of the Messiah would entail.  Even the Virgin Mary’s song in Luke 1—the Magnificat—is filled with violent imagery.  We read…

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Jeremiah 33:14-16

Advent begins this year in burned out cities littered with dead bodies and in a devastated countryside where the deer and the antelope do not play (Jeremiah 33:4-5 and 10).  After centuries of divine patience with Israel’s blatant covenant breaking, God has finally had it.  This dark book of Jeremiah is God’s word of judgment…

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Micah 5:2-5a

When the Lectionary dishes up just 3.5 verses, skipping the first verse of a chapter and stopping just halfway through the fifth verse, you just know it’s like putting blinders on us readers to keep us from seeing something on either side of the lection. I don’t know why they made this choice but lyric…

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Hebrews 10:5-10

Sometimes you just have to wonder where the inventors of the Revised Common Lectionary got their ideas for the choices they made. I mean, here we are, 5 days away from Christmas, surely one of the most pregnant times in the church calendar. The other readings for this Fourth Sunday of Advent are clearly about…

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Zephaniah 3:14-20

Comments, Observations, and Questions I used to watch a TV show that was quite compelling and enjoyable but it did have one feature to it that I did not much like: on some episodes the show’s characters would find themselves sunk very deep down into dreadfully complex circumstances.  The episode would devote something like 92%…

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Isaiah 12:2-6

Comments, Observations, and Questions to Consider Note: During Advent the Lectionary occasionally appoints other readings in place of a Psalm. This is Isaiah’s song of praise to the Lord for being his salvation.  It lies at what J. Ross Wagner calls a “crucial juncture in the book of Isaiah.”  Our text, after all, ends the…

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Philippians 4:4-7

Comments, Observations, and Questions Growing up in a family of modest means, I learned early the value of Reader’s Digest Condensed Books.  We couldn’t afford the real thing, those lovely complete books, so we read those abbreviated and edited versions of bestsellers and classics.  They were very helpful, though not nearly as graceful as the…

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Malachi 3:1-4

A friend of mine who is an English professor once told me that he suggested to a friend that he might enjoy reading the great works of the author John Donne.  So this man did so.  Some while later the two met up again and the English professor asked him “What did you think of…

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Luke 1:68-79

Comments, Observations, and Questions to Consider Has the Lectionary lost its way already on the second Sunday of the church year?  The “psalm” the Lectionary appoints for this Sunday is, after all, not actually a psalm, but the song that Zechariah sings at his son’s birth.  He was, of course, an elderly priest who was…

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Philippians 1:3-11

Comments, Observations, and Questions Of the four lectionary readings for this Second Sunday of Advent, this passage from Philippians gives the lightest and least obvious perspective on Advent.  I say, least obvious, because apart from the two references to “the day of Christ,” there’s no clear Advent character to Paul’s words.  These two references occur…

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Jeremiah 33:14-16

Acoustics are so key.  How does a text sound?  Usually you need to pay attention to the context to figure that out.  But when you dive into the middle of a text like this lection, you can so easily miss or forget that wider context.  But remembering it can change the acoustics pretty significantly.  After…

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Psalm 25:1-10

Comments, Observations, and Questions to Consider How in the world can we preach or teach a Psalm on a Sunday when most of our listeners are already thinking about and mostly interested in getting ready for Christmas?  If they’re thinking about anything Scriptural, many Christians are thinking about Matthew and Luke’s accounts of Jesus’ conception…

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