Advent Study: Happy Holy Days (Resources)

At Our Savior’s during the three Advent Wednesdays this year, we took part in a study written by Pastor Anna called “Happy Holy Days,” which focused on tuning in to what’s important during this busy time of year: love, holiness, God’s presence, and other people. These are the resources used in the study for any who want to look more deeply into them and for those who want to follow along from outside the Pioneer Valley.

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Each section contains ten parts of no longer than ten minutes (and most are much shorter). During the session, participants share a meal. The entire session lasts about an hour.

SESSION ONE: Seeing Ladders
“Surely the Lord is in this place — and I did not know it!” 

One: Lighting the Advent Wreath
P: Let us pray. God of light,
C: Come to us. Amen.
P: Alleluia, Christ is lighting the night.
C: Thanks be to God!
The appropriate number of candles is lit.

Two: Word.
Read 
Genesis 28:10-19.

Three: Bread.
Communion bread is blessed and broken with a theologically appropriate liturgy.

Four: Meal and Conversation.
Participants receive food (at Our Savior’s, we distribute soups cooked by our people, buffet style) and begin conversation about the night’s topic using the prompts below. Conversation lasts about ten minutes.
“Jacob is just going about his (rather dramatic) life when he realizes that he is in the presence of the holy. When have you been surprised by a holy moment?
What makes a moment holy?”

Five: Reflection (from Barbara Brown Taylor’s An Altar in the World).
Selections from Chapter 1 are read, with accompanying photos. 
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Find or order the book at your local independent bookstore!

Six: Meal and Conversation, Part II.
Another ten minute conversation engaging the following questions:
Revisit this question in light of the chapter’s emphasis on experience:
what makes a moment holy?
Do you have any ways of waking up to the holiness around you? What are they?
What are some ways that we miss these “ladder marks” (holy moments) during Advent (and at other times)?

Seven: Wine.
“After supper, he took the cup…” Communion wine is blessed and shared with an appropriate liturgy.

Eight: Seeing.
A multimedia presentation using Tait’s “Altars” with snapshot’s from the year’s news. The one I made with photos from 2017’s news (focusing on international news) is here.

Nine: Blessing.
A blessing is sung in rounds (learn the one we use here), then we say:
P: Go in peace; God is with you.
C: Thanks be to God!

Ten: The Holy Dishes (Cleanup).
The study focuses on seeing the holy in the ordinary, and the tasks that sustain life (like cooking and cleaning) are holy, too! Everyone is encouraged to help clean up.
——————————————————————-
SESSION TWO: Sending Signals (Prayer)
“Pray without ceasing…” 
Parts 1, 3, 7, 9, and 10 are the same for each section.

Two: Word.
Read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-25.

Four: Meal and Conversation.
Food is served with ten minutes of conversation using the following prompts:
“The Thessalonian church was apparently feeling stressed when Paul encouraged them to ‘pray without ceasing.’ Realistically and practically, how can a normal, stressed person possibly follow this advice?
Out of people you’ve known, past and present, whose dedication to prayer has most impressed you?”

Five: Reflection (from Barbara Brown Taylor’s An Altar in the World).
Selections from Chapter 11 are read, with accompanying photos. 

Six: Meal and Conversation, Part II.
Another ten minute conversation engaging the following questions:
“‘Did God find me or did I find God?’ Last week, we talked about awakening to God’s presence. This week, we’re talking about intentionally coming into and/or living in God’s presence in prayer. What do our congregation’s prayers (in Sunday worship and our more informal prayers together) have in common with other faith groups?

How, beyond devotional times or church, do you pray alone? What are some of your practices? (Consider your ways of taking a moment to breathe and decompress – these, too, are a kind of prayer.)”

Eight: Seeing.
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We watched the beginning of this video (until just after the story about the memory stick) to introduce Lin-Manuel Miranda’s advocacy project for Puerto Rico, “Almost Like Praying.” Then we watched the official music video  with subtitles (which I accomplished using split screen and playing this lyric video on mute). 

——————————————————————-
SESSION THREE: Sending Blessings
“Blessed is she!” 
Parts 1, 3, 7, 9, and 10 are the same for each section.

Two: Word.
Read Luke 1:39-45.

Four: Meal and Conversation.
Food is served with ten minutes of conversation using the following prompts:
“In this passage, Elizabeth blesses Mary.  What does it mean to bless someone or something?
In what meaningful ways have people blessed you over the years?”

Five: Reflection (from Barbara Brown Taylor’s An Altar in the World)
Selections from Chapter 12 are read, with accompanying photos. 

Six: Meal and Conversation, Part II.
Another ten minute conversation engaging the following questions:
“‘I asked him to bless me.’ We’ve been talking about recognizing God’s presence and coming into God’s presence. This week, we’re talking blessing — recognizing the holy in both ordinary things and other ordinary people. Who has blessed you recently? How did they do it?
What are some ways that we can pause during this busy season to (silently or out loud) bless the things and people around us?”

Eight: Seeing.
Remembering the Talmud quote used in Barbara Brown Taylor’s chapter (“It is forbidden to taste of the pleasures of this world without a blessing,” I made a video of “blessings” using John Mayer’s song, “Clarity.” The photo montage included beautiful views, hot coffee, kind church people. At the end, viewers are encouraged: “See the holy, say a blessing.” Try creating your own slideshow!


NOTE: Clergy are welcome to use any and all material in their own teaching, provided that credit is given where it’s due.
Of course, I can’t 
make you give credit, but be a good person, eh?

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