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Thinking Advent in July by Sue Wright

I don’t know when the first Advent Booklet was published at Second, but the first time I participated in one was back in 1989. I saw a blurb in the “bulletin” announcing a booklet was planned with everyone in the congregation invited to write something and send it to the office. Not a professional writer yet, I was eager for any opportunity to put my pen to paper—literally. This was before I owned a computer— even a word processor--and so, I dashed off something “Christmas-y” in long-hand, mailed it to Second, and waited for my rejection.

Naïve as I was, I didn’t realize how difficult it can be getting people to write. Turned out, just the fact I mailed a devotional to the church, made me a shoe-in. Still, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t in an esteemed company that year. Editors, Jo Anne Beasley, Harold Phillips, and Myra Unger enlisted the following for that booklet: Virginia Link whose devotional was a reprint from the 1984 Advent Booklet, Brooke Blanton, Wesley Duke’s 1987 reprint, Michelle Worthan, David Howell, Suzie Goertz reprinted from 1986, Lutie Chiles (also a 1986 reprint), Israel Obieje, Dorothy McClain (a 1984 reprint), Bill Riggs (l984 reprint), Loreta Moore (1984 reprint), Kenny Pierce (’84 reprint), DeeDee Bruns (’87 reprint), William Link (’87 reprint), Frances Reading, Ray Kesner (1987 reprint), Brian Unger, and several days of Advent writing attributed to The Editors. Clearly, few at Second had been ready to volunteer their Advent thoughts, and so the Editors had been forced into the archives.

Thank goodness, when Larry Winter asked me to pull a booklet together for Advent 2001—at least, that’s the first I have retained in my files—I didn’t know how difficult it would be getting 30 people to write a devotional. Who I knew at Second was limited, so I turned to my trusty church directory for names and started calling everybody, one by one. Some folks gave me a flat out no, some a maybe if you can’t find anybody else, and some an enthusiastic yes—my mom, Mary Meyer, was one of those. Through the years until her death, she was an avid contributor-- my primary go-to person whenever I was a writer shy. Marjorie Stump often filled that bill too. More than once I received a devotional from her without my asking, even after she moved to the Baptist Home. No problem. Somehow her words always managed to coordinate perfectly with a text, until then, unassigned.  

Years passing, both technology and an appreciation for all things Advent Booklet have changed dramatically at Second. Now we recruit writers not only through blurbs in our church’s publications but also by social media. Instructions and follow-up are sent by e-mail rather than expensive, time-consuming snail-mail. We have a store of “Perennial” writers who relish penning a devotional year after year, a list of “Occasional,” who opt in less frequently, and some who so far have been, “One and done.” Which means, of course, we always have room on the roster for new writers. Writers of all talent and confidence!

Curiously, it took me several years of editing booklets before I understood our booklets are ADVENT booklets, not Christmas booklets. Their purpose is to prepare us again for the coming of Christ through a series of Old and New Testament readings and our writers’ insights plus their personal stories and memoirs. I confess, sometimes writers are challenged by the verses they are assigned, but what better way to celebrate the season than discovering, by God’s stirring, some new Biblical revelation to impart.  Traditionally, someone from our church staff pulls scripture passages from the lectionary, I assign them, and then each writer awaits the divine spark to fuel the ink of their 200-300 words. Writers know the theme for that year’s booklet and a devotional’s spot on the calendar.

The graphic designers (always co-editors of each booklet) have made our booklets a loving work of art -- a hand-out or send-out inviting to the reader. Rachel Keeney was the first I teamed up with, and since then, there has been Julie Larocco, Jewell Schlotter, Terri Soper, and Nicole Swanson. I would note with appreciation that Neita Geilker has faithfully edited AND written for the booklets

Remember these names? Brittany Thomas, Marian Reineke, David O. Moore, Gerry Walther, Becky Dempsey, Jacque Stouffer, Eleanor Cutherbertson, Sherry McGlaughlin, Norman Shands, Tyler Anderson,, The Kirklands, The Lassiters, Kent Yohe, Mary Meyer, Esther Lindgren, Becky Gossett, Larry Winter, Connie McNeill, Connie Chambers, Peg Jones, Mischelle Tripp, Neita Geilker, Patrick Hill, Bill Link, Angie Fuller, Mark Buhlig, Milton Horne, and Steve Graham. All of them said yes in 200l, much to my relief. Rereading their devotionals, I smile with tears of gratitude. Those folks gone from our congregation and those still writing like Becky Gossett, remain in print, a forever presence for me.

No matter your age-- and I’m talking grade school to most senior adult-- consider making 2017 the year you offer a special Yuletide gift to your church—your Advent devotional. We’ll begin recruiting writers in September but don’t wait until then to send me your welcome, “I’ll do it!” Let me know when you see me or send me an e-mail at suewrights@att.net. You can let co-editor Janet Hill know too.

Last year, fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Gillespie agreed to write for the first time; Angie Fuller’s devotional preceded hers; Jennifer Huffman’s came after-- a teacher, a student, and a professional writer. The rest of the roster? You guessed it!  A slew of perennials and those who thankfully said, “Sure Sue. I’ll write one this year.”

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