26 November 2022

Working with USPG on
preaching and liturgical
resources for Advent

‘Journey to Freedom’ … the theme of USPG’s Advent appeal this year

Patrick Comerford

Because Christmas Day is on a Sunday this year, Advent begins on the earliest possible day this year, and tomorrow (27 November 2022) is the First Sunday of Advent.

I have been working as a volunteer in recent weeks with the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), producing resources for local churches to use in Advent and Christmas this year and in Lent next year.

I was trustee of USPG for six years until last year (2021), and over the decades I have served on a number of USPG boards, committees and working groups.

The resources for Advent, now available on line through the USPG website, include four Advent Service Guides, based on the Sunday Gospel Readings, with sermon guides or outlines for adults and children, power point presentations and suggestions for prayers and hymns.

In my introduction to these Advent resources, I write:

Introduction to Advent Service guides

There are two themes in Advent:

1, Preparing for Christ coming as the Christ Child at the Nativity. In these preparations, we are challenged to imagine ourselves looking forward to the very first Christmas in Bethlehem.

2, Preparing for Christ coming as Christ the King at his second coming. In these preparations, we are challenged to ask how prepared we are for the coming of the Kingdom, and how are values, priorities and lifestyles reflect the priorities of the Kingdom.

The story of the first Christmas is a story not only of new birth, new beginnings and new hope. The Incarnation is a story too of how God takes on our humanity, including all the problems of humanity – not just then, but now and in the future too.

It is the story of a Child born into a messy world where rulers are despotic, where foreign occupying forces impose unjust demands and taxes, where children are murdered at the command of capricious kings, where people suffer because of their religion, ethnicity, social background and lack of appropriate health care.

It is a story of people on the move: Mary and Joseph must leave Nazareth for Bethlehem, and then must leave again, crossing boundaries and continents, in fear for their child and for themselves.

But this is a story too where the Good News is first heard by a single mother, by a father-to-be facing potential gossip and scandal, by marginalised and exploited workers out in the cold at night, by the outsider, even by wise people in far-flung lands who are total outsiders and made to fear the nature of the welcome they receive.

These resources look at the Gospel readings for the four Sundays of Advent in the light of these themes, and relate them to the Anti-Human Trafficking programme in India that is the focus of USPG’s Advent and Christmas Appeal this year.

There are outlines, suggestions and ideas for sermons and all-age talks on these themes each Sunday, a prayer for lighting the candle on the Advent Wreath each Sunday, and three suggested prayers for each Sunday: an opening or bidding prayer, an prayer to include in the Sunday intercessions, and a dismissal prayer to link with the post-communion prayer or blessing.

In addition, there are three hymn suggestions for each Sunday, related to both the Gospel reading and to the USPG Advent appeal this year, the Anti-human Trafficking programme of the Diocese of Durghapur in the Church of North India.

Like Mary and Joseph with the Christ Child, who were forced to flee their home and leave behind every security they had known, many men, children and women from rural communities decide to cross the border between India and Bangladesh, looking for a better employment and a safer life.

Sadly, human trafficking is a huge problem in regions near the border of India and Bangladesh and traffickers will lie in wait for those trying to cross the border. Only those truly desperate to leave their lives at home would risk such a dangerous journey.

The life-changing Anti-Human Trafficking programme runs rescue missions for those that have gone missing and conducts awareness-raising campaigns to spread awareness about human trafficking and show local people how they can protect themselves and others from getting trapped.

Your donations will help build a network with local government and law officials and organise workshops and camps with teaching from human trafficking experts. The programme also has a focus on promoting gender equality. It highlights child marriage, which can often lead to trafficking of girls and young women, and collaborates with women’s self-help groups.

Thanks to kind donations from supporters like you, the ‘Anti-Human Trafficking’ programme can continue running. Your generous donations really will transform lives.

Please join the Diocese of Durgapur in supporting survivors of human trafficking.

Patrick Comerford,
Advent 2022

You can find these resources at the bottom of THIS PAGE.

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