Tag Archives: Advent

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

Forward Today: Advent invites preparation, hope, and repentance

Dear friends in Christ,

Advent has begun. For me, it could not have come soon enough. Yes, I see the irony there.

I love the quiet of Advent, with its insistence that we make space to listen to the voice who cries in the wilderness. I love the hope of Advent, with its invitation to prepare our hearts and our lives to adore Jesus Christ at Christmas and when he comes in glory. I love the challenge of Advent, with its call to repent.

Sometimes we focus so much on the hope and yearning part of Advent, that we miss the other parts. Talk to anyone preparing for the birth of a child, and you’ll certainly hear about hope and yearning. But you’ll also hear a lot about preparation and work! From where I sit, Advent is penitential in that it invites us to change our lives to reorient us to look toward the dawning light of Jesus Christ coming among us. Advent challenges us to change.

It’s not that I think we over-scheduled people need one more to-do list. That’s the last thing any church needs to be doing, making people become busier than we already are. Quite the opposite.

What would it be like to unplug for a while? What would it be like to step off the treadmill of endless work and interruptions and just…be? What would it be like to treasure the joy of prayer, whether it’s us offering up fervent prayer or just spending time in silence, listening?

We’re still very early in the season. For those of you who keep Advent wreaths, we’ve only lit 25% of the candles! There’s still plenty of time to savor this season.

Looking for some help? Try the Advent Word on social media. Try Forward Movement’s newest Advent meditation book with meditations on the name of Jesus (get it as an ebook right now!). Try the Journey Through Advent app (iOS or Android) from Forward Movement with daily scripture and an Advent calendar you can color in! Try reading the Gospel of Luke in your Bible or online. Or just try daily silence.

However you use this gift, may Advent be a blessing to you as you seek and worship Jesus Christ.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Photo: Flickr

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


Advent Actions: First Week

Advent is a season of waiting, but it’s not a season of waiting around. In this holy season, we remember a time when the world yearned for justice, when people hoped a mighty king would come and rescue them. We know, with 20 centuries of hindsight, that the people got their king, but that the King of Creation was born in the most humble of circumstances. God entered our history and shared our journey in the most human, vulnerable way possible. In this story, we find hope and salvation in our own story. God’s salvation – health, wholeness, redemption – comes to us not in power and might but in humility and vulnerability.

In Advent, especially on this First Sunday of Advent, we also yearn for a time of justice, when God’s reign of justice and righteousness will be manifest. Along with the prophet Isaiah, we look for a time when “they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

Advent, then, is a time to remember and a time to hope. It is a time to prepare our hearts to adore Jesus Christ at Christmas, but it is also a time to prepare for God’s reign. In Jesus’ ministry, no one got upset when he said that the kingdom was coming. But he got into trouble for saying it is here, now. When God’s reign of justice and mercy, righteousness and truth is made real, we Christians know to proclaim God’s reign.

A few days ago, a priest from Minnesota, the Rev. Susan Daughtry, contacted us at Forward Movement with an idea. What if we used this Advent – this year’s Advent, coming in a time of increased division and proliferation of hatred – as a time of action and change? In other words, what if we looked for opportunities to see and proclaim God’s reign among us?

Each Sunday in Advent, we will post three suggestions for action or conversation. One will be connected with governance or civil society; one will be connected to loving our neighbors; and one will be rooted on transformation and conversation at home or among friends. We invite you to try these practices and encourage others to do the same. Please share your experiences in a comment here or on Forward Movement’s Facebook or Twitter feeds.

May Jesus Christ’s light be in your heart this Advent season, and may you be a beacon of God’s love for the world. I am,

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn


· Visit a restaurant owned by someone from a different culture. Strike up a conversation. Do you share any hopes or fears?

· Call your local mayor’s office. Share your hopes for your town or city. Do your hopes sound like Isaiah 2:1-5 (the first reading from today)? Why or why not?

· Gather friends or family around a meal table. Talk about how recent trends (rise in hate crimes, increased fear, violence, division) in the United States might or might not make this Advent different from previous ones.

Remember to share your experience with friends, either in person or online. Please consider posting these stories here in the comments or on Forward Movement’s Facebook or Twitter feeds.

Soul Proclamations: God Is With Us

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Luke 2:41-52

Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the

festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.

Meditation for Sunday January 3, by Christine McSpadden

As you enter St. Martin-in-the-Fields parish church across from Trafalgar Square in London, you confront a remarkable sculpture by Mike Chapman. I have seen it many times, and it still takes my breath away and brings me to tears. Under the portico, outside the west doors, presides a large, four-and-a-half ton block of light grey Portland stone. The opening line from the Gospel of John is inscribed in the stone and wraps around the plinth of the block: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word became flesh and lived among us.” On the top of the block, hewn out of the rough surface, a life-sized baby emerges from the stone—an infant utterly vulnerable in his nakedness, chubby arms spread apart ending in tiny, clenched fists, plump legs kicking open. The stone breathes and pulses with this fragile babe, his umbilical cord still tethered to the rock.

I cannot help but think of my own newborn son, minutes after his birth, pulled from my womb and thrust into this world, fragile yet fiercely alive! I am amazed again and anew that God deigned to take human flesh, so that the Almighty might share the divine self so intimately with us. It utterly stuns me that the Creator God who fashioned all that is seen and unseen, the Cosmic God whose existence knows no bounds, the Infinite God beyond all time and space, the eternal God who is, who was, and who shall be from everlasting to everlasting, the Omnipotent God all powerful, the Omniscient God to whom nothing is not known, and the Loving God in whom everything brings delight, meets us at our most vulnerable in this most vulnerable form of human being.

The Rev. Christine McSpadden, a graduate of the University of Virginia and Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, has served in congregations from New York City to San Francisco. She currently lives in London where she is a member of the clergy team at St. Paul’s Cathedral. She has written several times for Forward Movement, including as an author of meditations for Forward Day by Day. She and her husband have two children.

Soul Proclamations: Singing the Magnificat with Mary is a new collection of daily meditations for the Advent season. Authors include broadcast journalist Ray Suarez; Christopher Wells, editor of The Living Church; Kate Moorehead, dean of St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral; Thomas E. Breidenthal, bishop of the Diocese of Southern Ohio; and Christine McSpadden of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

The book invites you to share Mary’s journey through the Advent and Christmas seasons. To walk with Mary each day this Advent, order a copy of the full volume of Soul Proclamations ($5).

Soul Proclamations: Be Not Afraid

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Luke 1:39–55

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Meditation for Sunday December 20, by Tom Breidenthal

Today we are brought alongside Mary, as she races through the hill country to visit her cousin Elizabeth. She has just been informed by Gabriel that she is to give birth to the Messiah by the power of the Holy Spirit. No doubt she is motivated by the need to share what has happened to her, to seek the advice and encouragement of a trusted adult, and to sort out what is real from what she may have imagined in her impressionable heart. But Mary’s driving emotion is excitement: any self-doubt is the byproduct of her whole-heartedness.

Mary has received a call—one so sudden and so new that even now she cannot know for sure whether new life has been conceived within her. When she questions Gabriel— “How can this be, since I have not known a man?”—he says she will be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. Luke uses that expression only one other time in his Gospel, when he describes the cloud that envelops Peter, James, and John as they see Jesus transfigured in glory on the mountaintop (Luke 9:34).

Some have identified this overshadowing cloud with the dark night of the soul, the “dazzling darkness” we enter into when all the normal props of life are removed, and we are simply in the presence of the living God. Luke notes that Mary was among the disciples when the Holy Spirit lighted on them on Pentecost. Was this a reprise for her? Or perhaps nothing noticeable happened after her yes to Gabriel: I am the Lord’s servant—be it to me according to your word. In any case Mary believed what she had been told by Gabriel and proceeded accordingly. Can we who have been promised so much do the same?

The Rt. Rev. Thomas E. Breidenthal was consecrated as bishop of the Diocese of Southern Ohio in 2007. With a Master’s degree from Church Divinity School and a Doctor of Philosophy in Theology degree from Oxford University, Breidenthal has served congregations in Oregon, Oxford, England, and New York as well as serving as a high school chaplain. He taught at General Theological Seminary from 1992 to 2001 and served as dean of religious life and of the chapel for five years at Princeton University. He is the author of two books, Christian Households: The Sanctification of Nearness and Sacred Unions. He lives in Cincinnati with his wife, Margaret Garner Breidenthal. They have two adult daughters.

Soul Proclamations: Singing the Magnificat with Mary is a new collection of daily meditations for the Advent season. Authors include broadcast journalist Ray Suarez; Christopher Wells, editor of The Living Church; Kate Moorehead, dean of St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral; Thomas E. Breidenthal, bishop of the Diocese of Southern Ohio; and Christine McSpadden of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

The book invites you to share Mary’s journey through the Advent and Christmas seasons. To walk with Mary each day this Advent, order a copy of the full volume of Soul Proclamations ($5).