The NC Conference Media Center offers planning resources, studies, devotionals, and more to help create a meaningful Advent season for 2023.
Amplify, the United Methodist video streaming service, hosted a webinar with retired Bishop Will Willimon and NC Conference Pastor Cameron Merrill based on Willimon’s new Advent study. The recording of Heaven Meets Earth: Preaching on Advent is now available. In the webinar, the pastors discussed preaching on Advent and the Incarnation in down-to-earth ways with stories, wit, and authenticity.
Amplify also hosted An Unlikely Experience: Getting Ready for Christmas, a webinar with Rachel Billups and Matt Rawle that invites you to prepare for Christ’s arrival in a new way this Advent season. Both authors talked about their new Advent studies.
Amplify’s Advent webinars from previous years are also available to watch on their website. Prepare for the Celebration of Advent featured Adam Hamilton and Susan Robb presenting their Advent studies that were published in 2022. Sharing the Christmas Story, Sharing Our Faith featured Adam Hamilton, Matt Rawle, and Laceye Warner discussing their three Advent studies that were published in 2021.
Discipleship Ministries offers worship resources around the theme, Our Spirit Waits, including preaching notes, liturgies, prayers, graphics, youth lessons, and more. They also provide free worship resources for Christmas Eve 2023 and a liturgy for Advent Candle Lighting.
The General Commission on Religion and Race published free sermon starters and children’s sermons in their resource, God’s Unimaginable Surprises, in 2022. Dual themes of surprise and anti-oppression create the lens by which the truths of the Isaiah texts are contextualized into our contemporary longings for God.
Cokesbury’s Advent Study Comparison Chart
Cokesbury has posted an Advent study comparison chart to help you decide which Advent study to use with your church or small group this year. We have even more Advent studies available at the Media Center, so keep reading to discover additional options.
Advent Studies for Adults
New for 2023
Heaven and Earth: Advent and The Incarnation
by Will Willimon
It’s not within our own power to make a fresh start. If we’re to have a future different from the past, it must come as a gift, something not of our devising. What we need is a God who refuses to be trapped in eternity, a God who not only cares about us but is willing to show up among us and do something with us, here, now. In this study, Willimon introduces you to the God who does just that, bringing heaven to earth and changing everything. You can also purchase a Sermon and Worship Series Download from Cokesbury. Watch a promo video.
An Unlikely Advent: Extraordinary People of the Christmas Story
by Rachel Billups
This study focuses on the experiences of four sets of often overlooked characters in the Nativity story. During this Advent season, Rachel Billups guides readers through the themes of hope, love, joy, and peace by sharing the stories of Elizabeth and Zechariah, Herod, the Magi, and the shepherds. Each set of unexpected characters has something to teach about living faithfully on the journey to Christmas. Watch a promo video.
Things just look, smell, and taste differently during the Advent and Christmas season, and these differences are a sign to us that God is about to do something radical and different. Christmas is when God surrounded the divine with senses of his own. That first noel was when God had eyes to see suffering, ears to hear our cries, and hands to hold those in need, and all of these senses were bundled in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. “This will be a sign to you,” the angel told the shepherds, and they traveled to Bethlehem and found a child. What signs do you see during the Advent and Christmas season that point you to the divine? Watch a promo video.
Advent: A Season of Surprises
By Scott Chrostek
Advent is a season filled with anticipation of what’s coming next. No one could anticipate the surprise that awaited humankind with the birth of Jesus. Two thousand years later, we still look forward in expectation, wondering what lies next. What’s coming next for you? What’s next in your life beyond the presents, the family gatherings, and the Christmas traditions? What are you anticipating in your life? What are you dreading? These questions fill our hearts and minds during the Advent season. The studies in this five-week devotional guide are meant to be used by individuals, small groups, or entire congregations.
Light from Afar: An Advent Devotional from Around the World
By Nadiyka Gerbish, Joel Bengbeng, Claudio Carvalhaes, and Sidwell Mokgothu
Light from Afar is a daily Advent devotional that illuminates the season through the experiences and reflections of writers from around the world. The four weeks of Advent are each written by a different author, providing unique perspectives on the traditions of Advent from a variety of cultures. Authors include Nadiyka Gerbish (Ukraine), Bishop Sidwell Mokgothu (South Africa), Joel Bengbeng (Philippines), and Cláudio Carvalhaes (Brazil). A guide for small groups is included in the book. The Upper Room is offering an online course based on this book.
Triptych 2023: Daily Advent Scripture, Reflection, and Prayer (including Christmas and Epiphany)
By Steve Hickle and Andy Morris
Advent is the season for Christians to remember and rehearse “the coming of the Lord.” The days after Christmas through The Epiphany mark the early life of Jesus, including the perils he faced. This guide offers a view through both of these seasons using the “lens” of three foundational scriptures, Isaiah 58:1-14, Luke 1:46-55, and Luke 4:16-21. We use these three texts as a “triptych,” borrowing on the name for an art piece of three thematically and physically connected panels, often used as an altarpiece, especially when designed by classical artists.
More Advent DVD Studies for Adults
Prepare the Way for the Lord: Advent and the Message of John the Baptist by Adam Hamilton. Hamilton explores the Advent themes of John’s life and ministry, and how John calls all followers of Jesus to prepare our hearts for his coming. In each of the Gospels, the story of Jesus is intertwined with that of his cousin John, the one whom the prophets foretold would come to “prepare the way of the Lord.” When we hear the message of John the Baptist, it makes us and our world ready to receive Christ.
The Angels of Christmas: Hearing God’s Voice in Advent by Susan Robb. Explore the four angelic visits surrounding the birth of Jesus with Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds. In this study, the reader will explore the visits and dive deep into the history of the angel Gabriel–and other angels–in the Old Testament. This study uses these four angelic appearances to discuss God’s presence in history and our lives today. The messages of the angels hold meaning for listeners both then and now.
All the Good: A Wesleyan Way of Christmas by Laceye C. Warner, Amy Valdez Barker, Jung Choi, Sangwoo Kim, Barker, Amy Valdez. A group of diverse Wesleyan scholars will take you on an Advent journey guided by the practices in John Wesley’s means of grace. In four sessions of study, prayer, and conversation, readers will look at preparing the way for God, the discipline of prayer, the substance of good works, and the recognition of God’s presence with us in communities that are called to serve the world.
The Heart That Grew Three Sizes: Finding Faith in the Story of the Grinch by Matt Rawle. Explores the faith themes in the Christmas classic, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! including, how did the Grinch’s heart grow three sizes come Christmas morning? How did Christmas save the Grinch? Could it be that the very thing we think we hate is the one thing that changes our lives? Look at a familiar classic through the lens of faith and see how Christ speaks to us through our culture.
Almost Christmas: A Wesleyan Advent Experience by Magrey R. DeVega, Ingrid McIntyre, April Casperson, Matt Rawle. In John Wesley’s famous sermon, “The Almost Christian,” he encouraged people to follow Christ wholeheartedly. Pastor deVega leads a group of authors in exploring how we can make the same commitment to Christ during Advent, and connect our Wesleyan heritage with the traditional Advent themes of Love, Hope, Joy, and Peace.
Light of the World: A Beginner’s Guide to Advent by Amy-Jill Levine. Author, professor, and biblical scholar Levine shows how the Gospel narratives connect to the Old Testament; highlights the role of women in first-century Jewish culture; and emphasizes the importance of Mary’s visitation, the census, the stable, the star of Bethlehem, and the flight to Egypt.
Complete List of Advent Studies
We have 39 DVD-based studies and 15 additional Christmas movies listed in our Advent and Christmas DVDs for Adults pathfinder. We also have 32 book-based studies plus 30 devotionals, program ideas, and additional books listed in our Advent and Christmas Books for Adults pathfinders.
More Books for Advent
Fully Human, Fully Divine: An Advent Devotional for the Whole Self by Whitney R. Simpson. Simpson suggests practices that will help us focus on the body God created and embrace what it means to be fully human. By letting go of external demands and giving ourselves permission to be present as we listen for God in our lives, we can learn what it looks like to notice and pay attention to our bodies. Each chapter covers one week of Advent and each week focuses on one of the following themes: Slow Down and Hope, Simplify for Peace, Sit with Joy, and Savor God’s Love. The Upper Room offers an eCourse based on this book.
The First Advent in Palestine: Reversals, Resistance, and the Ongoing Complexity of Hope by Kelley Nikondeha. Trusted scholar and community organizer Kelley Nikondeha takes us back, to where the landscape of Palestine is once again the geographic, socioeconomic, and political backdrop for the Advent story. Reading the Advent narratives of Luke and Matthew anew, in their original context, changes so much about how we see the true story of resistance, abusive rulers and systems of oppression, and God coming to earth.
God Broke Through at Christmas: A Daily Advent Study for Individuals and Groups by Debra Wallace-Padgett. This study focuses on four different aspects of life transformed by Jesus Christ’s birth, ministry, death, and resurrection: Silence, Nights of the soul, Seemingly impossible situations, and Chaos. Each chapter begins with a meditation and study session guide, followed by daily devotionals for the week.
Making Room: Sharing the Love of Christmas by Ed Robb. This four-week study explores the warmth of welcome at Christmas following interactions with the Holy Family, the shepherds, and the magi. The story of Christ’s birth encourages us to widen our borders and increase our sense of community—and make room for others. This study also has a Leader Guide.
The Living Nativity: Preparing for Christmas with Saint Francis by Larry J. Peacock. This book introduces readers to Saint Francis and explores how nativity sets, Advent wreaths, candles, carols, Christmas cards, and other traditions help prepare our hearts for the God “who bends low to enter our world and our lives.” Prayer poems for each day of the season lead readers to deepen their spiritual journey, and the book provides a guided pattern for individuals and small groups to share reflections and experience activities that open their hearts to the Christ child. The Upper Room offers an eCourse based on this book.
Blue Christmas: Devotions of Light in a Season of Darkness by Todd Outcalt. Blue Christmas reminds us that all of our Christmases, even the darkest ones, can be filled with honesty and hope if we are first willing to sit in silence and bring our deepest fears to God. The book includes daily devotions, additional prayers, a “Blue Christmas” worship service, and reflection questions. The Upper Room offers an eCourse based on this book.
Complete List of Advent Books
View our complete list of book-based Advent studies, devotionals, activity books, liturgies, prayers, and more in our Advent and Christmas Books for Adults pathfinder.
Advent for Youth and Children
Many of our Advent studies for adults also offer separate guides to use these studies with youth and children. Here are some additional resources to help families celebrate the Advent season this year.
Fathom: The Coming of Jesus, The Birth of a Savior by Charlie Baber. This bible study for youth, written by NC Conference Pastor Baber, is a journey through some of the key Old Testament scriptures that shape our beliefs about the specific events leading to the birth of Jesus. A leader’s guide is also available.
Advent: A Journey Of Waiting, Watching And Preparing For The Light by Erik E. Willits. Waiting, patience, and prayer are the hallmarks of the Advent season. We learn to become people who wait for what we know God will do. Advent is a devotional guidebook to that anticipation, a reflective map readying you to receive the best present ever given.
Faithful Families for Advent and Christmas: 100 Ways to Make the Season Sacred by Traci Smith. In this new book of faith practices for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, parents, grandparents, Sunday School teachers, pastors, and anyone who cares about kids will find 100 easy, fun, and meaningful ideas for bringing the sacred back into the season.
Advent A to Z: Prayerful and Playful Preparations for Families by Sharon Harding and John Indermark. Beginning December 1 and running through December 26, each day will explore an Advent-related word that begins with a successive letter in the alphabet. This is followed by suggestions for simple, easy-to-prepare, and complete activities (discussion starters, games, crafts, meditations, journaling, outreach project, devotions).
Children’s Dramas for the Church Year: Reproducible Dramas for Advent and Christmas. You’re only asking for four things when it comes to an Advent or Christmas program for your children’s ministry. It needs to be 10 minutes or less, incorporate all age groups, work for the size of your church, and be super easy to produce. This is the resource that will get you from rehearsals to curtain calls stress-free.
John Wesley Church Mouse by Evelyn Anne Johnson-Neal. It is Christmastime in the small town of Chapin, South Carolina. Chapin United Methodist Church is putting together the last plans for the worship service. Unknown to the staff or Pastor Jody, another secret member of the staff is scampering about to check on each person as they finish up. John Wesley Church Mouse VI is doing his job although a little more slowly this year. “Twas the day before Christmas and all through the church…” Read the poem to hear about a tornado, a fire, a box of hymnals, and a brave little mouse ending in a lesson of great joy!
Complete List of Youth & Children’s Resources
View the Advent and Christmas Resources for Youth pathfinder to see a complete list of our Advent studies and program resources for youth.
View the Advent and Christmas Resources for Children pathfinder for a complete list of our Advent studies, family-friendly movies, picture books, and program resources for children.
Request These Resources
These resources can be borrowed for free by anyone involved with a United Methodist Church in the North Carolina Conference. We will mail them to your home! All you need to do is fill out the Resource Request Form.