Tag Archives: Christmas

Forward Today: Christmas can’t be canceled

Dear friends in Christ,

This Christmas will be like no other in recent memory. There will be no packed churches, no Christmas carols belted out with brass and choirs, no acres of poinsettias in the chancel, and not even any large family gatherings.

It would be understandable if we focused on our losses this year. Our losses are considerable, both in the thousands and thousands of people who have died in the pandemic and in the loss of familiar habits and rituals.

For Christians there is always Good News, even amidst our struggles and suffering. We know that evil is defeated on the cross, and we know that death is vanquished in the empty tomb. And then there is Christmas.

Some 2,000 years ago, the world suffered mightily under the yoke of oppressors. God’s people yearned for deliverance, ached for a word of hope. That hope came into the world in Bethlehem, an insignificant town in the middle of nowhere, at least according to the powers-that-be. God’s deliverance was born into our world in a birth that was precisely as beautiful and messy as any other.

Of course, not everything was normal about this birth. Sure, it was a human mother giving birth to a human son. But we know it was Mary the God-bearer bringing Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, into the world.

An angel proclaimed glad tidings. The host of heaven praised God. Shepherds hastened to meet their savior.

Nothing can change that story, for that story has changed the world. We would do well to be like those shepherds. Let us hasten to welcome Jesus into our world and into our very lives. And then let us glorify and praise God, for our world yearns for deliverance and aches in hope.

Perhaps with all the habits and rituals pared away, we can find the heart of the Gospel message of Christmas. God never abandons us and always finds us in our struggles. God-among-us is still very much our savior.

May we all, like Mary, treasure the Good News. And may we, like the shepherds, hasten to meet Jesus and proclaim his love to the world. I wish you a blessed Christmas.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director



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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…

The Good Book Club: Epiphany 2021 begins January 1st

Available in print and as an eBook: A Journey with Mark | Forward Movement

Register for free live course, Introducing Mark | ChurchNext

Looking ahead to Lent? Here are some ideas. | 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

Gifts for Children and Families

Growing Christians: Celebrating Saints & Holy Days at Home
This book is the perfect guide to celebrate at home all of the important holy days in the Episcopal Church. The book features the best of our reflections from Grow Christians, our faith at home blog, on major feasts, holy days, and fasts. Each entry includes the appointed psalms and lessons for the day. Following the readings are reflections by a diverse group of authors: moms and dads, godparents and grandparents, friends and youth group leaders, all bound by their commitment to helping form young people in the faith.

The Spy on Noahs’ Ark
Bible stories take on new life with this collection of eyewitness accounts from surprise sources: a dove, a lion, a stallion, and more. Using the ancient and imaginative art of storytelling, this book will delight children of all ages and begs to be read aloud. Adults will also enjoy these stories, and can use them to enrich personal and group Bible study. Discussion questions for children and adults are included at the end of each story, making it the perfect book for a church “On the Same Page” reading group or other intergenerational program.

The spy at Jacob's LadderThe Spy at Jacob’s Ladder
Have you ever wondered what stories stones might tell or whether a fishing boat can be friends with a faithful sailor? In the kingdom of God, every single thing has a story to tell and a song to sing—donkeys, sewing needles, secret caves, and water jugs! From the author who introduced you to The Spy on Noah’s Ark, this collection of stories, told from the inside out, are sure to stir up your heart and mind as you read along, meeting old friends and making new ones. You are invited to be a spy too at some of the most beloved stories of the Bible, placing yourself as participant and witness to God’s unfolding and unfailing grace and love.

The Path Family StorybookThe Path: Family Storybook
Explore the greatest stories of all as a family. This storybook recounts the major stories of the Bible, from creation to revelation, in a way that engages children (and those who love them!). The book features dynamic storytelling by best-selling author Lindsay Hardin Freeman, compelling questions by editor Melody Wilson Shobe, and original illustrations by artist Roger Speer. Can be read independently or would be a great companion to the Facilitator’s Guide.

Meet the Saints
The Meet the Saints: Family Storybook provides twenty-four stories of saints for families to read together, colorful child-friendly illustrations, thoughtful questions for family conversations, prayers to pray together, and coloring pages for children to enjoy. Join a journey with the saints and your family, learning more about the monks, missionaries, prophets, doctors, evangelists, and more who have led us on our way.

Grandpa's TentGrandpa’s Tent
Written by two Episcopal priests—and mothers—Grandpa’s Tent is a companion for children and families as they experience death, perhaps for the first time. The book explains what the Bible says about death—and life after death—and walks gently and honestly through the process of saying goodbye, attending the funeral, and grieving a loved one. The book also includes helpful talking points for adults to discuss death with children.

Family and Table gracesFamily + Table Graces
When we pray before meals, we follow the example of Jesus, who prayed with his disciples during The Last Supper. Table Graces and Family Graces each include 30 prayers, and are designed to stand on a tabletop or counter with the same prayer viewed on both sides. Pray together at your parish hall, church school, conference center, lunchroom, and home with these easy-to-read study books. Includes 1 copy each of the following:
– Table Graces
– Family Graces

Spiritually enriching Christmas gifts

The Way of Love: A Practical Guide to Following Jesus
One path to the Way of Love is through seven key actions: Turn. Learn. Pray. Worship. Bless. Go. Rest. This practical guide explores these words in the context of our life of faith and offers encouragement to begin or deepen spiritual practices to strengthen our journey with Jesus. Includes reflection questions, journal prompts, and a guide for developing a personal rule of life.

A Journey with Mark: The 50 Day Bible Challenge
Take a journey through the Gospel of Mark with fifty days of scripture readings, meditations, questions, and prayers. Dynamic spiritual leaders and authors serve as guides, writing from around the world. A Journey with Mark is an extension of The Bible Challenge, a global initiative to encourage daily engagement with scripture and an exploration of the Word of God. **This liturgical year follows the Gospel of Mark and The Good Book Club will be reading through this gospel this Epiphany.**

Any one of these beautiful prayer books makes a special gift:
Hour by Hour
Prayers New and Old
Prayers for All Occasions


In essays both humorous and achingly vulnerable, author Ryan Casey Waller urges us to join him in pouring out our brokenness, not just to God but to each other. Waller takes us through the trials of following Jesus during seasons of doubt and disbelief, anger, shame, and even hate, but always brings us back to the amazing news that Jesus blessed the bread before he broke it.

Pathways of Faith: An All-Ages Coloring Book
A coloring book for all ages—but especially for adults who may have forgotten the simple joys of creating—Pathways of Faith offers a respite from busyness and daily demands. Relax and restore as you spend time coloring these original illustrations that capture the amazing stories of the Bible and God’s love for us. Come and spend some creative, refreshing time with God. The Lord knows we need it!

The Social Justice Bible Challenge:
A 40 Day Bible Challenge
Featuring forty days of reflections by spiritual leaders and writers from around the world, The Social Justice Bible Challenge is an extension of The Bible Challenge, a global initiative to encourage daily engagement with scripture and an exploration of the Word of God. Disciples wishing to spend more time engaging the Bible on topics from poverty, hunger, displacement, and the care of widows and orphans will have their cups filled over and over again by the words of Scripture and meditations from people across the Church who engage with these realities each and every day.

Stocking stuffers:


Lent Madness Fanatics


Gift Ideas for a Blessed Christmas & a Holy New Year

A few Forward Movement gift ideas to support and inspire your loved ones in 2020. For standard shipping, please order by December 11th.

Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book
Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book is a book of prayer and practice —with disciplines, habits, and patterns for building a Christian spiritual life. It will help you to develop strong habits of prayer, to prepare for and participate in public liturgy thoughtfully, and to nurture a mind and soul ready to work and give and pray for the spread of the kingdom. Comes leather-bound (black) with two ribbons in a gift box.

The Way of Love Bible Challenge
Way of Love Bible ChallengeWith seven core spiritual practices, the Way of Love offers an intentional, Spirit-led path to following Jesus. And what better guidebook for the journey than the Bible? The Way of Love Bible Challenge pairs each practice with a passage of scripture as well as reflections, questions, and prayers written by a variety of faith leaders. Come and see what God has to say about the spiritual practices of Turn – Learn – Pray – Worship – Bless – Go – Rest.


Sing to the Lord
A great gift for the music lover in your life! Richard H. Schmidt’s meditations on forty classic hymns remind us of a shared faith—by generations before and with generations to come. Though the words and tunes may be entrenched in memory, Schmidt sheds new light on these hymns, inviting us to think about the texts through various lenses of scripture, faith, and personal experience. His reflections are painstakingly honest about how and when he has come up short as a follower of Christ—as well as how each time, he finds notes of forgiveness, love, and hope in these familiar songs.

Angels of the Bible
Episcopal priest Kate Moorehead invites us into a more dynamic understanding of the realm of the angels. Her devotions recount fifty key appearances of angels in the Old and New Testaments as she shares stirring theological reflections on the presence of angels and our life of faith.

In addition, the book features 56 full-color pages with depictions of angels throughout history. Art professor and scholar P. Scott Brown offers historical and theological context for these paintings of pivotal angelic appearances, including the Annunciation, the Celestial Hierarchy, and the Final Battle from Revelation.

Faith and Courage
In this powerful and poignant memoir, Archbishop Makgoba explores how the struggles of his ancestors shape his life today, how growing up in apartheid South Africa fuels his desire for justice, and how faith compels him to champion the difficult work of reconciliation. These lessons of faith and courage provide insight for audiences around the world, for all people who care about Jesus’ commandment to love one another.

Note to Self
Note to SelfThis 2019 Illumination Book Award Winner focuses on creating a “Rule of Life”—an ancient method for building soul memory, and offering reminders to ourselves of the person we hope to be—it is a practice of training your mind and soul to be kind and good.

Creating your own rule of life is grace that only you can offer to yourself, helping remind you to live the life you desire, and the life God wishes for you. Join author and Episcopal priest Charles LaFond as he guides you through the wisdom, creation, and application of your own Rule of Life.

Gifts of God
Gifts of God bookEpiscopal priest Furman L. Buchanan explores and reflects on each element of Holy Eucharist, the service most often held on Sunday mornings. Moving from the first spoken word of the service—blessed—to the last phrase—Thanks be to God—Buchanan explains the theological and scriptural elements of the service, helping newcomers and longtime members alike gain a deeper understanding of this gift of God.

Buchanan also shares his own stories, connecting pivotal life experiences with the words and actions of Holy Eucharist. Thoughtful questions at the end of each chapter invite readers to reflect on their own stories and how they connect with God’s story of love and life.

And finally…stocking stuffers for the Lent Madness fan in your life!

Forward Today: Christmastide is just starting

Dear friends in Christ,

Happy Christmas! I hope your Christmas is off to a wonderful start. Of course, today is the second day of Christmas. If you’re going along with the famous Twelve Days of Christmas song, you’ll be thinking of two turtledoves today. We still have ten more days of Christmas festivity ahead.

I love celebrating Christmas as the world has moved on. Perhaps Valentine’s Day items will be up for sale before we finish Christmas. And that’s just fine. You see, when we celebrate Christmas for the full twelve days, one of the gifts is that there’s no peer pressure. The Muzak and the mall aren’t forcing you into faux cheer. If you’re filled with Christmas cheer today, it’s because you want to be keeping the full feast.

Keep singing Christmas carols. Today, tomorrow, and right up through January 5th. It’s wonderfully countercultural. Spend time in these coming days in the silence—which is easier to find now than in the days leading up to Christmas—giving thanks for the great depth of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ.

As for me, I’m giving thanks for refreshment. I’m starting a three-month sabbatical next week. That’s a pretty great Christmas gift! I’ll be doing some travel, some reading, some praying, and maybe a bit of writing. Over the next three months, my colleagues at Forward Movement and some of our board members will be writing these weekly reflections. I hope you’ll enjoy the variety of voices and perspectives.

Today, I am filled with gratitude for Forward Movement, for our provision of sabbatical rest, and for the gift of the wonderful Episcopal Church I am privileged to serve. I am also grateful for Christmastide and carols for days on end. Mostly, I am grateful for Jesus our Emmanuel.

Pray for me over the next three months of sabbatical, and know that I am praying for you. We all have so much for which to give thanks to God.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Photo: Xavier Romero-Frias, from Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0]

Today’s Flash Sale: Hour by Hour

Hour by HourPray without ceasing with this compact edition of the Daily Office complete with prayers and psalms for one week. This beautiful little book, excerpted from The Book of Common Prayer, will enable anyone to say the hours every day: Morning Prayer, Noonday Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline. Perfect for prayer and worship at all times and in all places. Hour by Hour is a thoughtful gift—the cover is deluxe soft leather, and it’s packaged in a small white gift box.

Regular: $20
Today: $15

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

Shareable Christmastide Infographic

The Twelve Days of Christmas isn’t just a song about partridges in pear trees and golden rings. For the Church, Christmas is a twelve-day season (Christmastide) from December 25th through January 5th.

Dr. Christopher Corbin, missioner for transition and leadership with the Diocese of South Dakota, has partnered with Forward Movement to offer an easy-to-share (and understand) infographic highlighting the Twelve Days of Christmas. The infographic is designed to be both shared on your social media platforms as well as printed in sizes up to 11×17 inches. Download a PDF or JPEG.

12 Days of Christmas infographic

Download the Christmastide Infographic: PDF or JPEG

If you’re interested in seeing more infographics or have ideas for topics, send us an email at rthompson@forwardmovement.org. We’d love to hear your suggestions.

Spiritual Gifts for the New Year

For the Beauty of the EarthFor the Beauty of the Earth
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 like Minda Cox, Jason Leo, Mary W. Cox, Bishop Barry Beisner, and many others.

Note to SelfNote to Self
Discover what God has written onto your heart. What do you want for your life? Who do you want to be in your life, and how do you want to live? We humans need reminders, and when it comes to making a consistent effort to be better people, it’s important to have constant reminders. A “Rule of Life” is an ancient method for building soul memory, and offering reminders to ourselves of the person we hope to be—it is a practice of training your mind and soul to be kind and good.

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.

Anden en amor
Anden en AmorEn este libro dos sacerdotes episcopales (Scott Gunn y Melody Wilson Shobe) nos hacen recorrer El Libro de Oración Común, la vida cristiana y las creencias básicas de nuestra fe. Este libro explora el año litúrgico, los sacramentos de la iglesia, los hábitos de la oración diaria, y las enseñanzas del cristianismo anglicano. Descubre cómo la oración forma nuestras creencias y cómo nuestras creencias nos conducen a una relación más profunda con Jesucristo.

Jacob's LadderThe Spy at Jacob’s Ladder
From the author who introduced you to The Spy on Noah’s Ark, this collection of stories, told from the inside out, are sure to stir up your heart and mind as you read along, meeting old friends and making new ones. You are invited to be a spy too at some of the most beloved stories of the Bible, placing yourself as participant and witness to God’s unfolding and unfailing grace and love. Ages 7-12—Perfect for emerging readers as well as for adults and children to read along together.

More children’s books:
The Spy on Noah’s Ark
The Bible Spy Series
The Path: Family Storybook
Meet the Saints: Family Storybook

DevocionesDevociones del Pueblo de Dios
Este devocionario recoge unas trescientas oraciones, la mayoría de ellas del Libro de Oración Común. Son oraciones y devociones apropiadas para casi toda situación en la vida. Son válidas para todo hispano o latino de cualquier tradición. El devocionario tiene ocho secciones, devociones tradicionales (el rosario y el vía crucis); una selección de salmos; oraciones por los enfermos y en el momento de la muerte; por la nación, la sociedad y la creación; por la vida familiar y personal; y varias oraciones de acción de gracias, además de una letanía. Al inicio del libro, un amplio índice ayuda al lector a encontrar fácilmente la oración que busca.

Otros productos en español.
Alegra nuestro espíritu, haz seguro nuestro camino
El Movimiento de Jesús en la Iglesia Episcopal
Somos la rama episcopal del Movimiento de Jesús (Etiquetas autoadhesivas)

A few more ideas:
For the practicing yogi in your life: Faith with a Twist
Reading the Bible in 2019?: The Path or La Senda
For Lent Madness enthusiasts: Saintly Scorecard and Lent Madness Bracket