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During stressful times, two new devotionals for Advent draw us closer to God

Westminster John Knox Press publishes ‘Advent in Plain Sight’ and ‘A Surprising God’

by Westminster John Knox Press | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Photo by Grant Whitty via Unsplash

LOUISVILLE — As the world enters its second Advent season with the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic still looming over our shoulders, Christians are searching for devotional resources that offer space to connect with God through prayer and reflection. Westminster John Knox Press is publishing two offerings ahead of Advent season to guide Christians in group and individual study as they draw closer to God.

While the stresses of life today remain large, we can find God in the simple, ordinary things, argues Jill Duffield in her new devotional, “Advent in Plain Sight: A Devotion through Ten Objects” (WJK Books). Duffield, former editor of The Presbyterian Outlook and now senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, North Carolina, uses 10 ordinary objects that appear in the biblical narratives of messianic prophesy and incarnation to focus readers’ attention during this time of turmoil. “Having the eyes to see and the ears to hear the holy in the middle of daily demands and anxiety-provoking times takes an openness to the work of the Holy Spirit,” writes Duffield.

God came into our ordinary world in the form of a child, and even today, God is at work through the ordinary stuff of life if we train our eyes to see. These daily devotions use 10 objects to focus our gaze: gates, tears, belts, trees, cloth, light, hearts, gold, stars and water.

To enhance Advent sermon series and small-group discussions usingAdvent in Plain Sight,” Westminster John Knox Press has made free digital resources available here, including marketing materials and digital content for Zoom or virtual worship.

Look for God’s Advent surprises

Another way to draw closer to God during Advent while also remaining mindful of the pandemic and the stress of this contemporary moment is to look for God to surprise us, argue Thomas Long and Donyelle McCray in their new devotional, “A Surprising God: Advent Devotions for an Uncertain Time” (WJK Books). Where do we find hope when it seems in such short supply? Where are the signs of God’s peace in this divided world? “In this time of thirsting for God, we cling in faith to the God who surprises by providing refreshing springs in the driest of places and who allows light to break into our world in the bleakest of times,” write the authors.

Long, emeritus professor of preaching at Candler School of Theology, and McCray, who teaches preaching and Christian spirituality at Yale Divinity School, have written 28 devotions, one for each of the days for Advent. “The events of the past year have shown us that we can be surprised by pain and sorrow,” writes McCray in the preface, “but we have also come to see how much we can be surprised by God’s grace.” These daily devotions are for those whose patience is worn and who are struggling to hold on to hope, but who look forward to a surprising God during Advent.

Approaching the Advent season this year, all Christians can find comfort, reflection, and deep conversation with God using either of these exciting new resources. Both are designed for individual or group use.

About the authors

Jill J. Duffield (“Advent in Plain Sight”) holds an MDiv from Union Presbyterian Seminary and a DMin from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary with a concentration in preaching. She is the author of “Lent in Plain Sight: A Devotion through Ten Objects.”

Thomas G. Long (“A Surprising God”) is Bandy Professor Emeritus of Preaching at Candler School of Theology, Emory University, and is one of the most popular preachers in the United States today. He is the author of many books, including “The Witness of Preaching,” “Preaching and the Literary Forms of the Bible,” and “The Good Funeral(cowritten with Thomas Lynch).

Donyelle C. McCray (“A Surprising God”) is Associate Professor of Homiletics at Yale Divinity School. Her scholarship focuses on African American preaching, sermon genre, and modes of authority. She is the author of “The Censored Pulpit: Julian of Norwich as Preacher.”


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