Frequently Asked Questions About Four Weeks

Now that my ebook Four Weeks: Reflections for Advent is out in the world, I wanted to take some time to answer what I think will be some of the most common questions about it.

Where can I get this book? The top 3 places are Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, and Apple Books.

Where’d this book come from? Similar to my ebook No Perfect Time, most of the content comes from my former blog. I kept a regular practice of writing a series of posts every year for Advent that I always called “part devotional, part diary.” I’ve adapted and compiled what I believe to be the strongest pieces into a volume as a guide for Advent.

But is this really a “devotional?” Yes and no. It’s set up where there’s a reflection for every day of the week for the four weeks of Advent, plus one for Christmas Eve and one for Christmas Day. So yes, you can use it like you would most devotionals where you can read one entry per day. However, the entries don’t have some of the typical trappings of a devotional such as an introductory Bible verse and a closing prayer. So you have the option to use it like you would most devotionals but you might feel moved to read it differently.

Then what would someone get out of reading this for Advent? Entries follow the themes of the four weeks of Advent: hope, peace, joy, and love. As Advent is a time to prepare and acknowledge our need for new birth, many of the reflections touch on that need by weaving in experiences of stress, loss, uncertainty, cynicism, doubt, and grief, but also always with an eye toward the renewal that is to come at Christmas.

Why’d you publish on Smashwords again? And again my answer is: why not? As I wrote a while back, there’s an unfair stigma around self-publishing that doesn’t exist for DIY creators in other media. I enjoy the process, and I don’t think that authors always need to go the traditional route to share their work with readers.

Where can I keep up with book and author news besides this blog? I have a newsletter that I send out near the end of every month, and rarely any more frequently than that. I also provide updates on my author Facebook page, my Twitter page, and on Instagram.

Any plans for a release event? I’m not sure yet. I’ll surely do a podcast episode about it. Stay tuned if I do anything more.

This isn’t your first book, is it? Not at all. I’ve written five others. Check them out here.

Four Weeks: Reflections for Advent

My new ebook is now available! Order from these retailers:

Smashwords
Barnes and Noble
Apple Books

Advent is a time to name what we are most yearning for. We may be seeking relief from stress, healing in grief, comfort for loneliness, or reassurance in sadness. In this season, we not only wait for the birth of Christ, but for the new life and light that it will shine into our own struggles with loss and despair.

Four Weeks: Reflections for Advent is a collection of brief writings that explore the complicated experience of the holiday season, both its causes for anticipated celebration and also its amplified feelings of loss.

Four Weeks includes a reflection for every day of the season of Advent, focusing on the themes of each week: hope, peace, joy, and love. It also includes one for Christmas Eve and Day. Readers have the option of reading it as a daily devotional or at a different pace if desired.

Click here to order your copy of Four Weeks: Reflections for Advent.

Advent Candle Liturgies

Several years ago, I wrote these liturgies for lighting the candles around the Advent wreath. If you are searching for words to use either in a worship setting or for your own devotional time, I am happy to offer these for consideration.

Lighting the First Candle: Hope

Call to Worship

Lift up your eyes and your hearts. From where does your hope come?
Our hope is in God, who made heaven and earth; our hope is in Jesus Christ, for whose birth we wait. 
What keeps you from hoping? Bring it to this time of worship and offer it to God.
We come to worship to renew our hope. We come seeking a light for our way through the darkness. 

(Pause while the first Advent candle of Hope is lit.)

People of God, may this candle serve as a reminder of the hope that is within us.
Though it is one single flame, it is enough. We press on through our fears with the Spirit as our guide and source of courage. 

Invocation

God of Hope, you light our path. When we feel drained, defeated, and downtrodden, you tend to our souls. When our bodies and hearts are chilled by personal winters, you warm us by your Spirit’s fire. As we begin this time of Advent waiting, instill in us a hope that carries us through troubled times, as we anticipate the new heaven and new earth that is ever manifesting in our world. It is in the name of the one for whom we wait and in whom we hope that we pray. Amen.


Lighting the Second Advent Candle: Peace

Call to Worship

This season of waiting continues. We have come together to encourage each other as we prepare.
We’ve already reminded each other to hope. We eagerly anticipate the arrival of Emmanuel, God With Us. 
One hope stirring within us is for peace. Our world cries out for peace in so many ways.
We wonder where peace is to be found in troubled times. We look to the Prince of Peace to answer our anxiety. 

(Pause while the second Advent candle of Peace is lit)

The light grows brighter in this darkening season. Unto us a child is to be born who will show us the way of peace.
May this assurance quiet our restless souls. May this time of worship make gentle our racing hearts.  

Invocation

You say to us, “Be still and know that I am God,” yet it is hard to be still during this busy season. The many demands of our lives press upon us, and we are weary and wary of your promise of peace. Reassure us in this time together of your presence, and by it soothe our troubled minds. Carry us forward by your promise that all manner of things shall be well. Amen.


Lighting the Third Advent Candle: Joy

Call to Worship

We have called one another to hope, and we have sought peace with one another. Now comes a reminder to rejoice!
We look forward to a time when God will bring joy to the world. For so many reasons, we need this joy ourselves. 
The demands and reminders of this season may make joy difficult. This is why we come together to worship.
We as a worshipping community are called to point out joy to one another. We set our lights on a lampstand for all to see. 

(Pause while the third Advent candle of Joy is lit)

Rejoice in the Lord always! Again, I will say rejoice! The Lord, our source of joy, is near!
May our lives and spirits be brightened by this worship moment, and by those with whom we praise God’s name! 

Invocation

Gracious God, we confess that we’re not always able to detect reasons for joy that you have placed all around us. We are not always open to the rejoicing to which you have called us. This time of year is often as much of a reminder of endless tasks and lost relationships as it is an invitation to sing and to be merry. Help us to join together with joyful hearts in this time and place. Fill our mouths with laughter and our tongues with shouts of joy for the wonderful things that you have done and will do for us. Amen.


Lighting the Fourth Advent Candle: Love

Call to Worship

Our journey through Advent is nearing its close. We’ve joined in hope, taught peace, and rejoiced with one another.
Led by the Spirit, we have remembered some important truths revealed by the One whose birth we seek. 
The flame symbolizing love is the latest to mark our journey, and it is perhaps the brightest of all.
Love seems to be the simplest, and yet is the most difficult. We take this moment to be reminded yet again. 

(Pause while the fourth Advent candle of Love is lit)

The light of love illuminates the path ahead of us. It is the path that the One soon to be born will bid us follow.
May God embolden our hearts to love others as God first loved us. May this time of worship strengthen us for this call. 

Invocation

Ever-present God, we rejoice in the love and faithfulness that you have shown to us. We are aware of your invitation not only to receive this gift, but also to share it with others. We confess that it is hard to love some of the people who cross our life’s path. We see the risk involved and are not sure how best to fulfill your calling. O God, grant us discerning hearts and generous spirits, that we may know the best way forward, ever guided by your light. Amen.


Lighting the Four Advent Candles and the Christ Candle

Call to Worship

A light has dawned, and it fills the earth. God is doing a new thing; it is good news for us.
We who keep parts of ourselves in the shadows are invited into the light; to embrace the new life God shows us. 
Go to Bethlehem to see the embodiment of God’s grace. Go to experience God’s love in human form.
We must go in order to see for ourselves. The light of the world beckons to us. 

(Pause as the Advent candles and Christ candle are lit.)

Rejoice and be glad for the possibilities of this good news!
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among all whom God favors! 

Invocation

We are startled and surprised by the many ways you appear to us, gracious God. As we tend to our mundane tasks, the sudden brilliance of your revealing light awakens us to your presence. We rejoice in the good news you share with us: unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. Like the shepherds, may we hasten to see the ways you are making all things new, and may we be inspired to rejoice and proclaim as we re-enter a world yearning to hear words of hope. Amen.