Tag Archives: Advent

AdventWord finds new home at Forward Movement

Beginning in 2021, the multilingual, interactive online Advent calendar known as AdventWord will be offered as part of the ministry of Forward Movement, whose mission is to inspire disciples and empower evangelists.

The project has grown for the past several years under the stewardship of Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS), having originated from the Society of Saint John the Evangelist (SSJE) in 2014.

Forward Movement will continue to work with current AdventWord project manager, Sarah Stonesifer Boylan, and VTS is excited to continue its participation and support of the project.

“Since its origins, the AdventWord hosts have brought unique strengths to the devotionals during the Advent holy season. As I enter to my fifth year shepherding this ministry, I look forward to collaborating with Forward Movement to bring their commitments discipleship and story-sharing into this multimedia initiative,” said Stonesifer Boylan. “The AdventWord prayer-filled community has been made possible by coordinating efforts from the committed organizations of SSJE, VTS, and now, Forward Movement.”

Gathering a worldwide community, AdventWord provides a daily meditation, visual image, and invites personal reflections via social media to share in a community-driven Advent journey. Thousands have participated each year, responding to the words with photos, written responses, crafts, drawings, poems, found art, and Holy Spirit-filled posts. Short daily meditations are sent out each day through Advent via email, social media, and as a podcast, in English, Spanish, French, and American Sign Language videos. Sign up for email updates at www.adventword.org and follow AdventWord on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and use #AdventWord in your own posts.

AdventWord is now an offering of Forward Movement

For the second year, Forward Movement will be releasing an Advent devotional to coincide with AdventWord, with each daily reflection drawing inspiration from that day’s selected word. The book, Promise & Praise: Advent Word Reflections, will be available at www.forwardmovement.org in early fall.

“Daily prayer and reflection are a central values at Forward Movement, and we try to show that through our resources and offerings,” said the Rev. Canon Scott Gunn, executive director at Forward Movement. “AdventWord offers a stirring way for disciples to practice daily reflection with others around the world as we all prepare to meet Jesus Christ in the season of Advent.”

Sign up for email updates about AdventWord!

Forward Today: Oh, it’s time for the O Antiphons

Dear friends in Christ,

One of my favorite liturgical customs comes along every year just before Christmas. In the last days of Advent, there are special prayers to be said during evening prayer starting December 17. They are called the Great O Antiphons, because each of these prayers begins with O. You can find the prayers in the Wikipedia article for the O Antiphons.

You probably know these antiphons without knowing it. The hymn “O come, O come Emmanuel” is a paraphrase of these ancient prayers. If you open The Hymnal 1982 and turn to hymn 56, you’ll see this beloved hymn. At the start of each verse, there’s a date telling you on which day of Advent this verse is appropriately sung.

If you’re like me, this a chaotic time of year. There are tasks to be finished by Christmas, there are tasks to be finished by the end of the calendar year, and there is the overall misery of this lousy year. For all those reasons, I’m especially looking forward to adding a ray of hope and light to my evening prayers over the next few days.

I’ll probably just say the prayers at the end of evening prayer where additional prayers may be added. But it would also be appropriate to sing a verse of “O come, O come, Emmanuel.”

Whatever you do, I encourage you to stick with Advent to the end. Our hearts and our lives need the full measure of this season to prepare ourselves to adore God-among-us.

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other,
mightily and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

Let us all pray for prudence. Advent blessings to one and all.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

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Photo: Wikipedia


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Listen to today’s Forward Day by Day reflection on the Forward Day by Day podcast. Find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast and end your day with the Evening at Prayer podcast. Available anywhere you listen!

 


In case you missed it…

Order Now: A Journey with Mark | Forward Movement

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Check out our interactive Advent/Christmas Catalog | Forward Movement

Forward Today: Looking toward Christmas

Dear friends in Christ,

I hope you’ll forgive this intrusion into Advent, but we need to talk about Christmas for a minute. It’s coming. Part of our hope-filled Advent is attending to the logistics of Christmas celebration, and we want to be ready to do whatever we can to receive again the gift of God-with-us.

Not long ago, I read a wonderful blog post about Christmas, churches, and the pandemic.

The pandemic makes connecting with new people this Christmas more important than ever. But the pandemic also has given rise to new ways of being and doing church that present new opportunities for reaching people. Christmas 2020 calls us to meet new people in new ways. Don’t miss this moment.

This blog post, “Reaching New People this Christmas is More Important than Ever”, is worth reading carefully. There are some good ideas of how we can reach people with the Good News they need in the midst of a difficult time.

You may be too exhausted to do more than you’re doing now. And if that’s the case, take care of yourself and know that it’s more than enough.

If, however, you can muster the energy, you and your church can offer a tangible manifestation of Christ’s presence in the coming Christmas season. We can’t have our familiar, beloved Christmas services. Family gatherings must be scaled back. But still we can celebrate the Good News and the glory that the angels celebrated when Jesus was born. Christmas 2020 will be unlike any in recent memory, but it will still be Christmas.

I don’t know what your church should do, and I don’t know what you can do. But I do know that all around there are people yearning for a word of hope, mercy, and grace. This is our moment to reach out with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Pray for strength and courage to answer the call. Pray for our whole church—weary though we may be—to proclaim glad tidings of God’s great love for us.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

Subscribe to receive Forward Today in your inbox.

Photo: Pixabay


Tune in!

Listen to today’s Forward Day by Day reflection on the Forward Day by Day podcast. Find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast and end your day with the Evening at Prayer podcast. Available anywhere you listen!

 


In case you missed it…

Order Now: A Journey with Mark | Forward Movement

Register for free live course, Introducing Mark | ChurchNext

Gift idea: Give the gift of prayer with a Forward Day by Day subscription

Check out our interactive Advent/Christmas Catalog | Forward Movement

Forward Today: Advent is almost here, just when we need it

Dear friends in Christ,

Advent is coming up, and I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to it more than this year. This has been such a challenging year in many ways, and Advent brings just the blessing I need. I look forward to Advent’s invitation to repent and to focus on Jesus. And I look forward to some of my favorite hymns and scripture readings.

I hope you’ll find Advent as life-giving as I expect it will be for me. But this doesn’t just happen. We have to make time in a chaotic world for the peace and the reflection of Advent to work in us. Perhaps you’ll join me in setting aside some time each day. Perhaps you’ll pray the daily office (online or via our morning prayer or evening prayer podcasts).

Advent Word is a global movement, a way to pray through the season online and offline. Some suggestions for how to use #AdventWord are available on the Advent Word website. You’ll see the links to follow Advent Word on social media and to add your own voice to the conversation there. This year, we have a podcast. And Forward Movement has published a wonderful book of Advent meditations keyed to the words of #AdventWord. In case you still want a creative outlet, there are posters you can buy to color your way through the season. We have Advent Word posters and the ever-popular “Slow Down. Quiet. It’s Advent” calendar poster by Jay Sidebotham.

Over the years, Forward Movement has offered many different Advent reflections. You can peruse our books, pamphlets, online courses, and more using our interactive Advent/Christmas eCatalog. (Order by November 16 for standard shipping.)

Of course, you don’t need to spend a penny to savor the blessing of Advent. The scriptures are free. Advent Word is free. Quiet is free. And, more important, the grace of Jesus is free.

I do encourage you to make some space in your life for Advent. And let us welcome this blessing we so sorely need.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

Subscribe to receive Forward Today in your inbox.


Tune in!

Listen to today’s Forward Day by Day reflection on the Forward Day by Day podcast. Find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast and end your day with the Evening at Prayer podcast. Available anywhere you listen!

 


In case you missed it…

Check out our interactive Advent eCatalog | Forward Movement

Gift idea: Give the gift of prayer with a Forward Day by Day subscription

Event: Join the conversation with Dean Kate Moorehead about her book, Angels of the Bible: Finding Grace, Beauty, and Meaning

Just Launched: Developing a Rule of Life with Hillary Raining | ChurchNext

Forward Today: Good news of great joy for all the people

Dear friends in Christ,

Advent is in its final days, and Christmas approaches. Every year, in these last days before Christmas, I get impatient for Christmas to come. Can’t wait to belt out “O come, all ye faithful” on Christmas Eve.

A couple of days ago, I read a sad op-ed by a priest bemoaning the burden of preaching the “old, old stories” at Christmas. He added that the people “didn’t want you messing around with them.” Well, of course the people don’t want us to mess around with the story of Christmas. It is part of the most amazing story ever!

I hope we will not take the advice of those who want us to ignore the deep truth in the Christmas story as it is told in the Gospels. Some in the church are embarrassed by the claims. Some outside the church are distracted by how the story of Christ’s birth stands in stark opposition to the consumerism and violence of our time.

By all means, I hope we all remember and retell the old, old stories at Christmas. I hope every preacher tells the wondrous story of Christ’s birth in their sermons, for many who come to church may not know them. I hope every one of us who claim to follow Jesus will remember and retell how his life on earth began. If you are opening gifts around the tree, maybe you’ll take a few moments to read the Christmas story from Luke 2 just before ripping off all the paper. (And I say this without condemnation. No one loves ripping the paper off packages more than me, except for maybe my dog.)

Christmas offers each one of us a gift. In the Christmas story, we remember that God the Father cared about us enough to send his son into our world. In the Christmas Gospels, we remember that God-among-us entered our story not in a palace but in a manger. The glad news of Christmas was told first to shepherds, not princes. Jesus Christ ruled with mercy and love, not with power and might. Christmas reminds us that God’s grace is the real deal, and it finds us where we are.

Tell the Christmas story. Tell it to your children and grandchildren. Tell it to strangers. Tell it again to yourself. And then savor the gift of God’s great love for us.

All good wishes to you for a blessed conclusion of Advent and then a happy Christmas.

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Image: Pixabay


Today’s Flash Sale: Walk in Love

Take a journey through The Book of Common Prayer, the Christian life, and basic beliefs of our faith, guided by two Episcopal priests-Scott Gunn and Melody Wilson Shobe. Walk through the liturgical year, the sacraments of the church, habits of daily prayer, and the teachings of Anglican Christianity. See how our prayer shapes our belief and our lives and how our beliefs lead us into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.

 

Regular: $22
Today: $16.50

*Discount is valid until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time

Forward Today: Taking an Advent journey

Dear friends in Christ,

We’re now a few days into Advent. I always look forward to this season, and this year is no exception. Our world seems ever more chaotic, divided, and violent. There’s danger that the cacophony drowns out the voices of peace and hope that I long to hear. In this way, perhaps this Advent isn’t so different from the time some 2,000 years ago when the world longed for a savior.

Advent is surely a time to prepare for our annual celebration of Christ’s birth. But it is also a time to express our yearning for Christ’s return in glory, a time when justice and mercy will be made manifest throughout the world.

To observe Advent is countercultural, to say the least. The stores cry out, “Buy things!” The news cries out, “Be afraid!” Everyone cries out, it seems. But Advent invites us to be quiet, to pray, to dwell in hope as we seek the peace that passes all understanding.

Advent has started, but it’s not too late to find your way in the season. So if you don’t have an Advent discipline or plan, do not despair. You might simply spend a few moments in quiet each day. Perhaps you’ll light some candles at home when it’s meal time, and pray for the light of Christ to come among us. You might take advantage of Advent programs at church. Or perhaps this is a good time to check out our podcasts of morning prayer (Apple or Spotify) or Forward Day by Day (listen here).

But you don’t need to do anything complicated. It is enough in this season to turn toward Jesus–to repent. A few moments of quiet or prayer is all we need. God’s grace can work in our hearts if we but open ourselves to God’s abiding presence. The Triune God stands ready to renew our hearts, to renew the whole creation.

How will you move through Advent?

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

Photo: Flickr: grassrootsgroundswell


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November Staff Picks

Our November Staff Picks were selected especially to help guide your Advent journey! Order today—November 14th (EST)—for 10% off your purchase.

O Wisdom: Advent Devotions on the Names of Jesus 

“This book is such a lovely way to read through Advent. Anchored by KariAnn Lessner (Christ Church Cathedral, Houston) and Mark Bouzutti-Jones (Trinity Church, New York) and featuring voices from across the Church, meditations on the ancient themes of redemption and restoration sing across the season.

If you are looking for a way to spend five minutes a day in quiet reflection, this book will be a fantastic resource. Want to spend time with a friend who will tell you a good story, or hear a word from the pulpit? You’ll find those stories here too. Prepare your heart to welcome Jesus this advent. Rejoice!”


 

“A favorite Advent tradition of mine! I look forward to reading, reflecting, and coloring each day through Advent.”

 

 

 

 


Dog in the Manger: Finding God in Christmas Chaos

“I enjoy the humor AND the illustrations! A great read for the Advent season.”

Come, O Lion of Judah

NecklaceO gentle Lion of Judah who lieth over my heart, protect me by day and by night all the year long.


Inspired by the O Antiphons, Donna Beales submitted this beautiful, handmade jewelry. Donna is a jewelry artist from South Jersey who specializes in Celtic themes and precious metal microsculpture. She is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Woodstown, NJ.

Forward Today: Full church, full hearts

Dear friends in Christ,

Christmas is just around the corner. After all the Muzak, the crowded malls, the holiday parties, and the delicious treats, we get to the real deal. Most readers of this email will, I suspect, find themselves in a church this Christmas Eve. And most likely, that church will be crowded.

I’ve heard people make disparaging remarks about “Christmas and Easter Christians.” I wish that would stop. You see, no one gets bonus points for daily church as opposed to twice a year. Jesus doesn’t love you more if you have high status in the Frequent Church Loyalty Program.

Now I do believe there’s great value in regular worship attendance for those of us who are committed to following Jesus. But making unkind remarks about infrequent guests won’t win hearts.

Christmas EveI’m going to let you in on a little secret, dear reader. As a parish priest, one of my favorite moments every Christmas Eve happened in silence. I’d head over to the church before the first Christmas Eve service. Unless a musician was practicing, the church would be silent and empty. But the decorations were always set up. It was the height of Christmas anticipation. Everything was ready except for the crowds of worshipers who would soon come.

In the silence of that empty church, I would spend a few moments in prayer. Among other things, I would pray for everyone who was about to come to church. First time in church, infrequent guests, sporadic members, regular members, staff…everyone got some prayer time. My prayer would simply be that the message of Christmas would touch every life, every heart.

The Christmas story is mind-blowingly awesome, if you think about it. God loves us SO MUCH that Jesus Christ was willing to enter our world in the most humble way. God is no distant, remote deity. No, God is in our neighborhood. And God still is there.

So this Christmas Eve, I hope you’ll be in church. When you’re there, in that full church, I pray that your heart is full of love — of God’s love for you and your love of God.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Photo: St. James Church, from Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0]


Today’s Flash Sale: For the Beauty of the Earth

For the Beauty of the EarthGod saw every living thing that was made, and indeed, it was very good. -Genesis 1:31.

Dance along with the wind of God, be bathed in the primal waters, and look with awe and wonder on the myriad creatures God has made. Spend a day, a week, a month, or the whole year basking in the wonder of both fruit and flower, night and day, and everything thing that creeps upon the good earth. You are part and parcel of the very good creation God has made.

Join watercolor artist Kathrin Burleson and diverse voices from across The Episcopal Church in exploring the wonders of Creation and the beauty of the Creator. Burleson’s Creation-inspired watercolors offer inspiring visualizations that enhance the book’s 365 daily meditations, written by authors across the church and across the country.

Regular: $20
Today: $15

*Discount is valid until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time

Forward Today: Bountiful grace

Dear friends in Christ,

This coming Sunday’s Gospel brings harsh words from John the Baptist. You brood of vipers! Give up your material possessions! Stop cheating! In other words, if we’re going to try to repent, we have to…well…repent. Change. We have to change.

John the Baptist clears up the idea that we can be comfortable Christians. This life of faith, he says, must surely involve some tough changes. Dying daily to sin is not easy, after all.

So how are we to manage this? The collect for this Sunday has a lovely phrase, “because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us.”John the Baptist

Got that? We can’t do right on our own. We won’t repent on our own. We will fail at tough changes on our own. But thanks be to God, we have God’s bountiful grace and mercy. As we say in our baptismal promises, “I will, with God’s help.”

We’re around halfway through Advent. There’s still plenty of time to savor this season of repentance, preparation, and yearning. Perhaps you’ll join me in setting aside a few moments to think about how bountiful grace and mercy might make a difference.

What might John the Baptist say to you, if you met him on the street? Are you ready for his challenging message? Are you ready to turn away from evil and toward Christ’s light? Are you ready to accept the gift of God’s bountiful grace and mercy?

I don’t know about you, but I have some repenting to do!

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Photo: Flickr


Today’s Flash Sale: The Bible Challenge

The Bible ChallengeTake a great journey through the Bible, a year-long reading adventure, with The Bible Challenge. Each day you will be accompanied by a meditation written by a church leader or biblical scholar. More than one hundred archbishops, bishops, deans, priests, and scholars have contributed essays. The Rev. Marek P. Zabriskie, founder of The Bible Challenge and editor of this volume, believes that our lives of faith will be enlivened and expanded by a sustained encounter with God’s Word. If you never thought you could read the whole Bible, The Bible Challenge is a wonderful way to embark on a holy pilgrimage joined by others from around the world! Visit The Center for Biblical Studies for more information.

Regular: $18
Today: $13.50

*Discount is valid until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time