’Tis the season for gift-giving guides and black Friday sales that started a month ago. As active disciples in faith communities, we prepare ourselves and each other for the greatest gift: Jesus.
Many of us grew up with Advent calendars to measure the days leading up to Christmas. I remember my parents buying glittery calendars and hanging them on the wall in our kitchen. I had to take turns with my brothers opening the doors. Those secular calendars rarely started on the actual first day of Advent, so there were usually not enough days for all of Advent — or, in this year’s case, too many. Even though we loved those glittery cardstock Advent calendars, we had to make our own if we wanted it to be authentic to the season. Enter AdventWord.
AdventWord is an Advent calendar that we can use in so many ways. AdventWord offers a way to prepare each day of Advent with a word from the scriptures we hear on Sundays. AdventWord is brought to you by Forward Movement, the folx who bring you Forward Day by Day and Lent Madness.
Here is my gift-giving style guide of ways the people in your life can use these words to enter into a holy, slowed-down, peaceful Advent — even if that peace only lasts five minutes.
The Word List
Start all of your AdventWord preparations with a key ingredient: the list of words. Find the list at adventword.org and prepare to share in your socials, bulletins, flyers, and more.
For Individuals and Families
1. Daily Prayers
Invite those special people in your life to use AdventWords to meditate and pray every day in Advent. Include yourself in that group! Begin your prayers with the intention to slow down and embrace a practice of prayer during this holy season. Write a reflection on your thoughts and prayers. Read your AdventWord meditations on Christmas Day and reflect on your Advent season. Share your reflections with others to inspire them to keep a sacred Advent.
2. Creative Meditation
Bring your creativity to AdventWords and share them offline and online on your social media. Last year, I meditated on the word for the day and selected a picture book based on that word. I shared those books daily on Facebook. At the end, I made this graphic and posted it on Facebook and Instagram in English and Spanish. What made it a practice was the daily meditation, prayer, and selection of the book versus selecting the books in advance.
Bishop Shannon McVean-Brown shares her beautiful calligraphy of each word. Others write short reflections and post them online. Follow others sharing their AdventWord practices and invite people to follow yours using the hashtag #adventword or #adventword2023.
3. Remembering and Connecting with People
Focus your AdventWord meditations on people you know. Ask yourself: Who does this word remind me of? If that person is alive, tell them! Write a letter to that person, alive or dead, and share why they remind you of that word.
4. Family Conversations
Families of all ages can do any of these activities. Talk with your kids and teens about the words, and capture their thoughts if they are too young or busy to do so themselves. Here is where I invite you to step away from perfection. If you miss a day, God, Jesus, and Spirit all understand. We are practicing.
Play with AdventWords! Use the words for games like charades and Scrabble. Create mad-lib-style Advent stories, and include as many AdventWords as possible. Yes, you and your kids might remember something about parts of speech, but that’s not the point. Or is it?
1. Adding the Words to Gatherings
Enlarge an AdventWord graphic from the AdventWord Resources page or create your own using Canva or another design platform. Then display the graphic as an AdventWord poster in your parish hall. Share the words in your bulletin using inserts provided on the AdventWord Resources page. Use the words in your prayers during meetings, choir rehearsals, Advent events, and community engagement.
2. Sharing Reflections with the Community
Invite members of your congregation to reflect on a word and share it in your newsletters and bulletins. If you know someone who already engages with AdventWord, invite them to lead this project. You don’t need much lead time, and reflections don’t have to be long. You can challenge yourselves by doing a six-word meditation.
For Formation Leaders Who Love Intergenerational Fun and For Crafty People
Ah, my people. You’re the type who have read all of the above and are already thinking about how you can adapt those ideas for your ministries and crafts. You’re phenomenal! Here’s a bit more.
1. Crafty Calendar
Make an AdventWord Advent calendar. Sounds obvious, right? But just how crafty can you get?
2. Photo or Art Calendar
Visit Canva and search for an Advent or monthly calendar. Add the words along with photos or drawings.
3. Hanging Card Calendar
Create a clothesline-style calendar by putting the words on cards and hanging them on a line each day or at the end of the week on Sunday. Get some decorative items from your local craft store or thrift shop to add with the words, or ask for clippings from your local garden shop. People of all ages can create word cards, decorate them, or add decorative items to your hanging calendar.
4. Word Search Bible Study
Attempt a scripture study word search with the AdventWords. You can search for the upcoming week’s words from the Sunday scriptures each week. How many times does each word appear?
5. Game Night
Have a game day or game night using AdventWords.
I pray you enjoy a slow, peaceful, mindful Advent with AdventWord. Please share your ideas, successes, and failures with us! Peace!