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Visiting the local Wal-Mart several weeks ago, I noticed Christmas trees and other holiday decorations already on the shelves.
These items were not spread throughout the store as they will be soon, but it is noteworthy that the decorations seem to appear earlier and earlier each year.

For those who like to plan ahead, the availability of these items sooner is helpful and welcomed. But for those who don’t like waiting, this may result in frustration over the ever-increasing length of time between the appearance of Christmas items and the arrival of Christmas morning.

Amid this ever-changing landscape, Christians familiar with the liturgical worship calendar can be thankful that the length of the waiting season remains unchanged.

While the dates of Advent change, it is always four Sundays, for which congregants and clergy alike can say, “Thanks be to God!”

Over the years, EthicsDaily.com has compiled numerous resources for Advent planning and reflection, some of which I want to highlight here.

Most obvious is a five-week Bible study curriculum written by Jim Evans, which focuses on the Advent themes of hope, peace, joy and love. This study could be used in Sunday school classes, small groups or even in a Wednesday-night context to help participants understand and reflect upon the Advent season.

Student guides are available in units of 1-20, 21-50 and 51 or more copies; leader guides are available in units of one, two and three or more copies.

Less visible are the numerous articles that have appeared on EthicsDaily.com. Every article and sermon related to Advent that has appeared on the site since 2007 is available here.

Each of these provides a constructive and unique perspective on this four-week period of preparation and waiting. The following sampling should provide a helpful glimpse into the Advent articles available.

For those new to the concept of Advent, Michael Ruffin, pastor of First Baptist Church in Fitzgerald, Ga., offered a brief, informative explanation of Advent, along with two reasons to take this four-week period seriously.

Drew Smith, an ordained Baptist minister and director of international programs at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Ark., wrote a four-part series offering ways to journey through Advent: waiting, listening, repenting and believing.

Larry Greenfield, executive minister for the American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago, suggested that the Advent principals and texts could (and should) be applied throughout the year.

Molly Marshall, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Shawnee, Kan., urged readers to allow Advent to increase our longing for justice and love.

Guy Sayles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Asheville, N.C., said Advent recalls our yearning for peace and exhorted readers to “put peace into practice.”

These are but a few of the Advent resources available on EthicsDaily.com that I hope you will find helpful as you prepare for and journey through the period of active, engaged waiting for the coming hope, peace, joy and love into the world.

Zach Dawes is the managing editor for EthicsDaily.com.

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