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Advent 2019- Week 1 Reflection and Children’s Message



This advent reflection is part of ELCA World Hunger’s 2019 Advent Study. You can download the full study here. The children’s messages are a part of ELCA World Hunger’s sermon starter series which is published via email every Monday. You can sign up for the weekly email here on the right side of the page. 

Week 1 

“Jesus is Coming” 

“Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour” (Matthew 24:44).

The readings for this Advent, appropriately, are full of expectation. In many households, “expectation” has been the theme since the last few days of November. Some folks are digging out dusty boxes of decorations, young children are making early drafts of Christmas wish lists, and local stores … well, they’ve been ready for Christmas since Halloween ended. The air is full of anticipation. In the midst of this, it can be difficult to wrap our heads around the idea that “the coming of the Lord” was not always a joyous thing to look forward to. Thankfully, roadside billboards across the country are there to
remind us:

  • “Jesus is coming! Are you ready?” (against a background of flames);
  • “Repent! Jesus is coming to judge YOU!”;
  • “I will be back” (with a decidedly angry-looking Jesus on the cross); and
  • (the rather specific) “Judgment Day is coming — May 21, 2011.”

The last one may have been a slight miscalculation. But the idea is still there — Jesus is coming, and he’s bringing the thunder (or fire or brimstone or a can of what-have-you). And you thought that sweater from Aunt Myrtle last year was the worst thing anyone could get for Christmas. As striking as these messages might be, they aren’t really that far off from a pretty common thread in Holy Scripture. The arrival of God into the world is a fairly frightening prospect. The “day of the Lord,” as it is sometimes referred to, is described as “great and terrible” by the prophet Joel (2:31).

In Scripture, it seems, the future is something to fear. And certainly, for many people around the world who are uncertain about their health, their job or the environment in which they live, there are some bleak prospects on the horizon. But this isn’t the only way Scripture describes the coming of God. Certainly, as the prophetic writings in the Bible make clear, God drawing near is always risky business. But the story of Christ subverts our expectations — a humble manger instead of a flaming chariot, swaddling clothes instead of royal robes, a carpenter instead of a king.

Jesus’ prophecy in Matthew about the return of the Son to the throne is not a pleasant passage to kick off the Advent season. It is full of dire warnings about the coming days for the people. Jesus admonishes the disciples to watch expectantly for his return, but he also says something about what shape that expectation ought to take. And in doing so, Jesus again challenges assumptions about the end of time.

Jesus makes clear that, first, preparing for the day of the Lord is not about getting ourselves “right with God” so that we might be among the ones taken up rather than left in the field (24:40). By grace, we are saved from dreading the future. In faith, we know that God’s salvation of the world has already begun — and that it includes us. The second thing Jesus teaches is that the day to come should not cloud our vision from the work left yet to do before that day. The parables Jesus tells describe servants at work, doing what they can and laboring now, before the return of the “master.”

Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 24 are part of a larger sermon that includes Matthew 25. It’s in this later chapter that Jesus lays out the labors of the people of God as we await his coming: feeding those who hunger, satisfying those who thirst, showing hospitality to strangers, visiting the imprisoned and caring for those who are sick.

What does expectation of the dreaded “day of the Lord” look like for followers of Jesus? Actively being about the business of caring for our neighbors. Ultimately, the end is not about our repentance, or our righteousness or our own fear of judgment. It is about accompanying one another, caring for one another, and meeting each other’s needs. That is the labor of the expectant servant. For all the talk about the separation between those who will be “taken” and those who will be “left” (24:40-41), Jesus’ warnings about the day of the Lord are not meant to separate us from one another but rather to draw us near to each other in love, hospitality and care.

God has drawn near and commissioned God’s people with a holy vocation: to attend to their neighbors. The future is not something to be feared but something to be embraced. As people of faith, we know that our best days are not behind us but ahead of us. We know that the plans God has for us are, in the words of Jeremiah, “plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” We cling to the vision of John, who in Revelation 7 describes the future as a time when all will be sheltered by the one on the throne: “They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them … for the Lamb … will be their shepherd … and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” We know that we have been set free by grace to reimagine our world, no longer beholden to the past or worrying about the future. We are set free to be the church — to be bold and creative and courageous, knowing that we are part of a story God is enacting in our midst, a story of God at work through God’s people.

Gustin knows this about the future. A farmer and village leader in the Dowa district of Malawi, Gustin was 57 when he started to get sick. The day started like any other, but working in the field, he was overcome with muscle pain. Too weak to walk, he was helped by a fellow community volunteer, who hired a bicycle to bring them to the nearest clinic, 12 miles away. It was there that Gustin learned he was HIV-positive.

For Gustin, the future could have looked bleak, but he was determined to fight, not only for his own sake but for the sake of his neighbors. Through the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi (ELCM), Gustin met with a community health counselor who was trained in an ELCM program supported by ELCA World Hunger. With access to treatment, education and a companion for his long journeys to the clinic or hospital, Gustin got the help he needed. And now, he works in the community, actively counseling others who are living with HIV and AIDS.

Gustin refused to let his diagnosis become a prognosis for his future or the future of his community. With the right support, his diagnosis does not stop him from working toward a brighter tomorrow for his neighbors. “I know that my life is not over,” he says, “and I have a future.” God draws near, and the “day is coming.” But for people of faith, the future is filled with hopeful expectation, and the present is filled with active, loving service that draws us to one another

Reflection Questions

  1. How does your congregation inspire hope for the future in you, your family or your community?
  2. In what ways is your church part of building a brighter future within your community?
  3. How can the church counter the messages of fear within our communities today?

Children’s Message

Brooke De Jong is the writer of this Advent children’s message. Brooke is the Program Assistant for Hunger Education with ELCA World Hunger and a youth director in Park Ridge, Ill. This Advent Children’s Message is cross-posted from ELCA World Hunger Sermon Starters. 

Set up:

The season’s texts provide the leader with an opportunity to practice Advent anticipation and grow that anticipation with each children’s message until Christmas Eve/Christmas Day.

Bring in a large wrapped box. Inside the box make sure to include three smaller boxes, one inside the other, like nesting dolls.

Inside the smallest box put a pocket mirror. Draw a large yellow star on the outside of this smallest box.  Inside the second-largest box put the smallest box along with a bunch of new Band-Aids and draw a large red cross on it like an emergency first aid kit. And inside the next largest box, put the other boxes along with a bunch of stickers. On the outside of this larger box, put a picture of a stump with a stem springing forth. On the tree, you’ll write the riddle posted next week. For the largest box, wrap it in blue paper and/or add a blue ribbon to it to make it look like a present that is the color of your advent paraments. Inside the box place a packing list and an image of a hard hat for each child.


Invite the children to come forward.

Good morning everyone! I invite you to look around and tell me if you notice anything different at church this morning. (wait for response)

We changed colors today and added a few things! This is because we are starting a new year at church! The church year does not start on January 1st but with the season of Advent. (take a minute to point out the new color and explain any new objects, such as an advent wreath).

We also have this new big present! Would you like to see what is inside? (let the children help you unwrap the box). Hmmmm . . . there is another box and some other items. We will have to wait until next week to see what is inside this box. So, I wonder what these items could be for? (show everyone the items in the box) 

(take out packing list) The first thing we have is this piece of paper with a list on it. Would anyone like to read it? (if the children are shy or not of reading age, read the list out loud to the group). It’s a packing list!

I think I have an idea about what the things in our box are about! packing lists are ways we prepare for big, new and exciting adventures.

Did anyone travel for thanksgiving? Is anyone planning to travel for Christmas? (wait for responses) What did you bring with you or what are you planning to bring with you? (wait for responses)

Well, just like we prepare for a trip, we need to prepare for the baby Jesus and the coming reign of God.  Advent is a time when we prepare and slow down so we don’t miss the wonderful things God is doing and where God is calling us. But unlike a trip where we rest and relax, in advent, we are called to get to work! I think that is why we have these images of hard hats!

In our story for today, we learn that preparing for the baby Jesus means doing the work of loving and serving our neighbors. Preparing for the baby Jesus is about doing the work of things like showing hospitality to strangers, visiting the imprisoned and caring for those who are sick. What is something that you can do to be welcoming, helpful or show God’s love this advent? (wait for responses). 

You all have some unique gifts and unique work to do this advent! Now I invite you to take this hard hat and give it to one of the adults and remind them that they also have some work to do this Advent to welcome the baby Jesus. Ready! Go!

Hunger Rumblings will periodically highlight the work of organizations that received financial support through an ELCA Hunger Education/Advocacy grant in 2008. We hope you are as inspired by these stories of our faith in action as we have been!

Tour de Revs – 100 Days for Hunger and Wellness
2008 ELCA World Hunger Education Grant Recipient

The 2008 ELCA Hunger Education/Advocacy grant was used to plan for the 2009 Tour de Revs Bicycle Ride, and to create a promotional DVD and other printed materials. From May 13 – August 20, three ELCA pastors from the West Virginia/Western Maryland synod will ride over 13,000 miles on a bamboo bicycle built for three to increase awareness of world hunger and generate financial support for the ELCA World Hunger Appeal. Tour de Revs will be making stops at each ELCA synod, the 2009 ELCA Youth Gathering and the ELCA Churchwide Assembly.

A prologue ride was taken to all the congregations of the West Virginia-Western Maryland Synod in September, 2008, with much success. In the evenings, most churches hosted a dinner and invited the community, resulting in contributions to ELCA World Hunger of over $2000 (some of those funds were also matched by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans). The prologue ride received a lot of press, allowing many people outside the Lutheran church to learn about ELCA world hunger efforts through local and state newspaper coverage. We expanded our audience further by posting a promotional DVD on YouTube where it has been viewed over 1,100 times, and by creating a group on Facebook that has gained over 200 members.

Two of the three Tour de Revs pastors were at Camp Luther, the synod’s youth summer camp. Interest in the ride and in hunger issues became a secondary part of the camp experience. Some campers gave much of their money brought from home to World Hunger instead of buying treats at the camp store as they had originally intended. At the end of the week, over $2000 had been raised – an amount made even more significant and touching given the average camper age was 13.

Tour de Revs and the grant from ELCA World Hunger have caused many churches in the WV-WMD synod to rethink their commitment to ending world hunger and increase their giving to ELCA World Hunger. One church indicated a planned increase in ELCA World Hunger giving of 400% for 2009! We hope that by the end of the Tour de Revs ride many more congregations around the country will respond in as generous a manner.

Connie Twedt
Tour de Revs

posted by Erin Cummisford

Birthday blessings


Annie is inviting her Facebook friends to donate $28 to the ELCA World Hunger Appeal in honor of her 28th birthday. Her goal is to raise $280 by January 17. It’s a new twist on an old concept: the birthday offering.

Since this is early in the new year, most of us have yet to experience our 2009 birthday. Let’s take Annie’s lead and celebrate our birthday by giving a grateful and generous offering.
P.S. Happy birthday, Annie!

You may matter more than you think!

There’s been a lot of buzz recently about a happiness study. The premise is that happiness is contagious up to three degrees of separation. So if you are my friend and you become happy, I’m more likely to become happy, too. What’s more, my friend Mary is more likely to become happy even if Mary doesn’t know you. And even Mary’s friend John is more likely to become happy – 3 people removed from you, the source of all that happiness.

In addition to studying happiness, the authors have previously studied the impact of social networks on obesity and smoking rates. Apparently obesity has been spreading through social networks, and smoking has been declining. There are some interesting animations charting the progressions on this page.

If these social influences are real, what hopeful news for those of us fighting hunger! It suggests that our attitudes and behaviors can have larger impact than we ever knew. If happiness, obesity, and smoking are trackably influenced by a single person through their chain of friends, why not charitable giving or concern for those who are living in poverty? When I speak passionately and regularly about hunger, perhaps it will influence not only my immediate audience, but, through them, people I’ve never seen or met. And what happens when a whole web of us do it?

There are, of course, people criticizing the happiness study. One of the complaints is that the authors have proven correlation, but not causation. Still, the whole idea feels commonsensical to me. Doesn’t peer pressure work in a similar way? Aren’t we influenced by people we know? Aren’t they influenced by people they know? Why would it not carry through? So right or wrong, I’m going to approach the new year as if I matter more than I thought I did. May 2009 see our individual anti-hunger efforts spread far and wide!

-Nancy Michaelis

Back to School


In my neighborhood, the school buses are back on the roads in full force during my morning commute. School has begun again, and while the girl in the house next to me says she would prefer a bit more summer vacation, she is incredibly lucky to be going to school.

Education is a key factor in preventing poverty and hunger, and yet so many children in the world – especially girls – are not able to attend school. In fact, The World Bank’s Web site goes so far as to say, “The World Bank has recognized that there is no investment more effective for achieving development goals than educating girls.”

There are many reasons. Perhaps one of the most important is that an eduated woman applies her knowledge to caring for her family, so the whole family benefits. Educated women tend to have fewer children with better spacing between them, allowing more time to recover between pregnancies, and less stress on resources like food and household income. What’s more, the whole family tends to stay healthier, as educated women apply their knowledge about hygiene, nutrition, and disease prevention and treatment. Educated woman are also more likely to demand education for their children, improving the possibilities for their futures.

But the health of the family is not the only benefit. Obviously, a good education has potential for improving household income. Educated women are more likely to qualify for higher paying jobs, which opens the door for higher levels of food security, healthcare, education, community participation, and fulfillment. Similarly, educated women are more likely to participate in community politics, thereby affecting policy and societal structures.

Yet for all the benefits, many girls are unable to attend school. According to the same World Bank Web site,

“Worldwide, for every 100 boys out-of-school there are 132 girls. In some countries the gender gap is much wider. For example, for every 100 boys out of school in Yemen there are 270 girls, in Iraq 316 girls, in India 426 girls, and in Benin 257 girls (UNESCO GMR, 2007).”

The good news is that rates of education for all children – boys and girls – have been improving for many years. And ELCA World Hunger has been part of it. ELCA World Hunger dollars support education programs all over the world, including Egypt, India, Kenya, Peru, and Laos.So as the children in your neighborhood return to school this fall, consider the children in other places that don’t have such easy access to education. Consider helping them with a gift to the ELCA World Hunger Appeal or other organization of your choice.

Bad News/Good News

Does it seem like each morning’s news brings a report about another global disaster? In my darkest “oh-no-not-another one” moments, I just want to turn the TV off, push the paper away, and set my internet news pop-ups to “entertainment only.”

But I can’t totally disengage. Even if I really wanted to, my colleagues and our ELCA doesn’t let me. News clippings sent inter-office, phone calls from pastors, gifts sent in by children with prayerful notes… all bring me back to the reality of our broken world.

Of course, there’s another reality as well, and that’s the promise of God’s abundance. I’m reminded of this as I read budget reports detailing spending plans for the overwhelming generosity we received last year for ELCA World Hunger Appeal. My World Hunger/Global Mission colleagues had made spending plans based on a modest increase in giving, but certainly didn’t know that an additional $2.5 million would arrive at the very end of the year! What amazing generosity sent on behalf of our neighbors- near and far- who live with hunger and poverty!

Many of these “surplus” plans focus on our response to the global food crisis, one of those awful ongoing disasters we hear about so frequently (read more and give here). Our gifts to ELCA World Hunger help alleviate this crisis through a two-pronged approach. First, we are providing funds to our partners for emergency food and other relief efforts. But even more importantly, we have made a concerted effort to invest in long-term sustainable development that will help our partners help communities better withstand the ups and downs of the food market. For example, because of the generous giving to the World Hunger Appeal last year, we were recently able to make a special gift to the Kenya Evangelical Lutheran Church to provide tools, supplies and irrigation for a community to grow nutritious produce for their use and for market. In the long-term, this will have a far greater impact that food relief alone, and we are grateful to be able to make this special gift possible through our companion church.

So, on the next bad news day, when I just want to pull the metaphorical (and literal) covers over my head… I’ll remember that God truly is at work in our world. God’s work. Our Hands. Thanks be to God!

How much of your budget do you spend on food?

I’ve been reading lots of interesting statistics recently. Combine them and they become sobering very quickly. An example:

From The New York Times: Indonesians spend 50% of their budgets on food, Vietnamese spend 65%, Nigerians spend 73%. The poorest fifth of American households spend 16% of their budgets on eating.

Here are some statistics from The World Bank: Global food prices are up 83% in the past year and a half or so, 36 countries are experiencing food security crises, and prices are expected to remain high through at least 2009.

So what happens when you put those facts together? What’s a community to do when they already spend over half of their income on food, and the costs nearly double? Riots are one of the answers, a way of demanding help from governments and the attention of whomever is listening.

It makes me glad to be living in America. We certainly have our share of problems, and we can’t be proud of how many of our citizens live in poverty and with food insecurity. But as recession looms (or arrives?) and we look to our government, they give us an ecomonic stimulus rebate check. I know it doesn’t solve all of our problems, and arguably creates new ones. I know it doesn’t reach everyone. But the majority of us are still eating, and many of us are still eating very well. I am grateful that my government is both able and willing to respond to an economic downturn.

The ELCA Conference of Bishops recently pledged to tithe their economic stimulus rebate checks to ministries that serve people living in poverty. I think this is a great idea! The intent of the checks is upheld; the money is injected back into the economy so that goods and services are purchased, so that people keep their jobs, earn paychecks, etc. In maintaining the economy, we strive to avoid the conditions that lead to riots. And if those of us who are able donate some or all of our rebates to poverty-related ministries (like ELCA World Hunger!), the money can be put back into the economy by organizations and people with more urgent needs than our own.

Ballroom dance lessons raises money for ELCA World Hunger Appeal

How fun! Paul E-S found this video on youtube. Check it out!

“About the video” written by the producer :
Pastor Erwin Roux (aka ‘PR’) is the Pastor at the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Turbotville Pa. He and his wife Beth teach ballroom dancing lessons on selected Friday evenings. These classes were originally started at the Hidlay Parish Lutheran Church in Bloomsburg about 10 years ago. In 2005 when PR relocated to the Church in Turbotville, the classes were continued at the new location.

[===]All proceeds from these dance classes are donated to the Lutheran {ELCA] World Hunger Appeal. So far about $30,000 has been raised and donated since the dance program was started. The Pastor generously pays the operating expenses (printing, postage, and domain registration) out of his own pocket.

[====]RELATED LINKS: – The Church’s ballroom dance lessons program – Lutheran World Hunger Appeal – Main website for Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Turbotville, Pa.

[=====]This iMovie video was assembled 2/14/08 by, aka .