Out of Time: Advent 2023

Even as we are running out of time, God is outside of time entirely.

You know those calendar push notifications that regularly pop up on your phone?

If you’re anything like the Geese in this Barn, then they have probably saved your reputation as someone capable of handling things like professional responsibilities and human relationships once or twice.

When Advent arrives, it’s as though one of those push notification appears in our collective Christian consciousness: Jesus is on the way! Would you like to plan something?  

This urgency is not entirely due to our human rhythms of remembering and forgetting. As the liturgical year barrels to its close and then careens into a new beginning, the texts of the Revised Common Lectionary are preoccupied with time–the day of the Lord, God’s time versus our time, the mysterious scheduling of the day and the hour.

This urgency is intensified by the unpredictable way in which the RCL itself interacts with time. The gospel lessons skip backward and forward over Jesus’ life like someone trying to find the right track on a vinyl recording: one week, Jesus speaks of a day to come, the next week, John the Baptist speaks of Jesus’ coming.

In Advent, past and future collapse into God’s present, and the lines blur between Jesus’ first and second arrivals.

This is chronologically disorienting in a way that seems intentional. God, who created time and exists beyond it, is busy within, around, and beyond our human experience of time.  

Just what is God doing when it comes to time and to us? Out of Time explores responses inspired by the Revised Common Lectionary texts, reflecting on how God uses our experience of time to meet us, challenge us, bless us, shape us, and call us into holy endings and new beginnings.  

At its heart, this series explores two senses of being out of time. Advent thrusts upon us the reality that time is limited. We run out of time to reconcile, to prepare, to make a change. Yet even as we are running out of time, God is outside of time entirely.

God’s infinite being and infinite patience cut through our fear as God enters human time to dwell with us: Emmanuel, God-with-us.

The series includes seven weeks’ worth of materials–especially handy in a year when the last Sunday of Advent falls on Christmas Eve and you might be thinking about how to rejigger your congregation’s Advent calendar. It’s easy to adapt to the needs of your community.

November 12:   Uncertain Time
November 19:    Time Is Relative
November 26:    In Our Time
December 3:    Running Out of Time
December 10:    Time Flies
December 17:    Dreamlike Time
December 24:    Out of Time
Christmas Eve:  No Time
Christmas Day:  The End Time Is the Beginning  

What’s included in the series?

If you purchase the Basics, you receive the Preachers’ Notes, Children’s Message Starters, Sunday Liturgy, and the hymn “Out of Time.” All other items are included in the Bundle or are available to purchase à la carte.  

Preachers’ Notes: Preaching commentaries explore connections between each week’s lectionary texts and the Out of Time theme.

Children’s Message Starters: Kid-friendly connections to the week’s theme help to jump-start your brainstorm for a children’s sermon, including a visual aid.

Sunday Liturgy: Fresh texts for Advent worship include Call to Worship, Prayer of Confession, Advent Wreath-Lighting, Prayers of Intercession, Prayer of Dedication for the Offering, Eucharistic Prayer, and Charges. Also includes a new hymn written for this worship series, entitled “Out of Time.”

Advent Devotions: This take-home resource could be used to accompany the lighting of the household Advent wreath. Arranged around a weekly text, it guides users into noticing how God appears in their experience of time.  

Liturgy for the Longest Night: This individual service uses the Northern Hemisphere’s lengthening darkness to hold space for those who struggle around the holidays. This type of service is sometimes called Blue Christmas or Darkest Night.  

An Advent & Christmas Pageant: An intergenerational pageant underlines the different ways that characters from the Nativity—from the Wise Ones to the donkey that traveled with Mary—experienced the moment when God-made-flesh entered into human time as a baby in Bethlehem.

Out of Time: now live in the Market Stall!

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Ready to purchase? Click the button to head to the Out of Time Market Stall.

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