Holiday planning isn’t always exciting. Pastors can start to feel like they’ve said everything there is to say on the subject of Christmas. Ditto for Easter. That can be true no matter how compelling Jesus’ incarnation is and no matter how transformational his resurrection is. It’s more a matter of finding new ways to express old truths so you can see them with new eyes… and help others see them with new eyes as well.
Many in your congregations deeply value their traditions and will want them kept intact. There is no need to change everything up. People will still want to sing their Christmas carols, have their children’s pageants, and hear the familiar scriptures read aloud with the lighting of the candles. But pastors can introduce some freshness into advent by reading widely and collaborating with others whenever possible.
Fresh Eyes for the Holiday
Rather than going inward, to your own mind, your own history, and your own imagination, go outward this holiday season. You’ve likely already mined all of your own associations with the holidays and preached on them before. Instead, start reading other people’s books, blogs, and essays. Start listening to other people’s sermons, podcasts, and teachings.
There is so much more to the story than the narrative known by heart. There are so many lenses we can look through to get a fresh perspective. Here are a few examples:
What about looking at Luke from a female perspective? The stories of Mary and Elizabeth are often told during Advent but there are several women in the first chapters of Luke who are overlooked. The stories of the women mentioned in the genealogy are beautiful foreshadowing of the grace and reconciliation found in Jesus.
A Weary World
In his book, An Honest Advent, artist Scott Erickson peels away the polish of Christmas Present and looks at the story through the lens of the painful realities of the weary world then—and now.
One helpful resource I recently ran across is an annual advent guide by Dave Meserve, available through Volunteers of America, that provides fresh takes on advent each year. For instance, one past year looks at the events of the incarnation through the lens of place: Jerusalem, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Egypt, and the roads along the way.
Coaching Questions for Advent inspiration
- What other perspectives can you consider when reading through Luke?
- What else is going on in the context of the story?
- How might that context speak to people today?
- Who could you talk with for inspiration?
- What resources could you access?
- Where might you find more ideas you could build on?