Advent is a time of preparation and expectation. Christians anticipate the celebration of the birth of Jesus at Christmas as well as await the triumphant return of Christ. We have curated devotional resources, practices, classes, groups, courses and more to help you continue to grow in your love of God and others in this sacred season.

If you have any questions about these or other faith formation opportunities, contact Warren Pattison.
We pray you have a blessed and holy Advent.

Family Faith Formation Resources

Creating Sacred Moments at Home for Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas with Rev. Traci Smith

This Advent will look like no other in memory. Pastor and author Traci Smith offers some simple practices to make this season meaningful for you and your family. Her book Faithful Families for Advent and Christmas is out now. It is a holiday companion to her excellent and very practical book Faithful Families: Creating Sacred Moments at Home.

You can also download Traci’s wonderful Faithful Families Calendar for simple, family-friendly activities for this season.

Advent Devotional Materials

Keeping Christmas First United Methodist Church Advent 2020 Devotional

Our Advent sermon series is inspired by Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, with a focus on how Scrooge sees Christmas. This year’s devotional theme is “Keeping Christmas in Your Heart” and features devotional writings and artwork from the children, youth and adults of our congregation.


#PictureAdvent Image-based Devotional Practice


The #PictureAdvent theme for this year is “Exile and Hope.” Picture Advent provides a new approach to devotional practices using images in this season. Rather than the photo-a-day prompts of previous years, each day of Advent will invite you into a time of reflection through the practice of visio divina or “sacred or divine seeing”. Similar to the practice of lectio divina (sacred or divine reading), you will prayerfully reflect on a few images as you read and listen to scripture and watch for God’s presence. Learn more about the process and sign up for daily emails to receive the devotional materials.


Retreat and Prayer Resources

Illuminated 2020 Online Advent Retreat with Jan Richardson
November 29 – December 26

Registration is now open for the Illuminated 2020 Online Advent Retreat. Created and led by Rev. Jan Richardson, this online retreat is not about adding one more thing to your holiday schedule. It is about helping you find spaces for reflection that draw you deep into this season. In a chaotic time, this retreat will offer a space of elegant simplicity. Intertwining writing, art, music, and community, this online journey creates spaces of reflection and rest that you can enter into from anywhere you are, in the way that works best for you.

For the first time, the Illuminated Retreat will be based on Jan’s book Night Visions: Searching the Shadows of Advent and Christmas. Whether you are new to Night Visions or are someone who returns to it each year, I invite you to join us for this unique chance to travel through it together. (Purchasing the book is not necessary, but is available here.)

Cost is $90. More information and registration is available here. Some scholarship money is available through the Adult Ministries office. Contact Warren Pattison for more information.

Finding God in the Everyday – the practice of the Daily Examen

The practice of the Daily Examen (an intentional prayerful review of your day) is a wonderful one for this season of preparation and reflection. Through guided questions, you prayerfully reflect on your day, asking God to reveal what God would have you notice. Over time, this practice can help you develop sensitivity to God’s promptings in your life, and better enable you to respond to them.

Light a candle, take a deep breath, and begin.

If you would like to explore the practice of the Examen more deeply, visit the Daily Examen page at

Classes and Groups

Keeping Christmas: The Journey of Ebenezer Scrooge
Online Groups with Pastor Andy beginning November 19

Join Pastor Andy Whitaker Smith in a five week exploration of Dickens’ classic tale in his new book Keeping Christmas: The Journey of Ebenezer Scrooge. The book is available on Amazon and from Our Giving Tree. Andy will lead two Zoom classes on Thursday, one morning and one evening, and possible a Sunday evening class if there is enough interest. Read more and register here.

Genesis Sunday School Class
Sunday mornings, 9:15am in the fountain courtyard

During Advent, this Sunday school class is journeying through the devotional book Let Us Go Now to Bethlehem. The book is available in the class. They are meeting outdoors at the church, socially-distanced, in the fountain courtyard. Bring your own hand sanitizer. Masks are required.

Koinonia Sunday School Class
Sunday mornings, 9:30am via Zoom

The class welcomes all who desire to grow in their love of God and neighbor. You are invited to join them for life application Bible study using the lectionary scripture texts and the Feasting on the Word curriculum. Rev. Terry Heck leads. Contact Warren for Zoom link and more information.

Searchers Sunday School Class
Sunday mornings, 9:15am via Zoom

Their Advent study is Light of the World by Amy-Jill Levine, led by Sunny Zimmermann. Trace the Christmas narrative through the stories of Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary, the journey to Bethlehem, and the visit from the Magi. Videos are available through Amplify Media. Contact Warren for Zoom link and more information. NOTE MEETING TIME- Class starts at 9:15am Sundays, call is open starting at 9:05am.

Sendero Sunday School Class
Sunday mornings, 9:30am via UberConference

Join in a study of Almost Christmas by Magrey DeVega. In 1741, John Wesley preached his famous sermon titled “The Almost Christian” in which he encouraged people to follow Christ wholeheartedly. We should not be satisfied with being almost Christian but rather strive towards being altogether a Christian. This study explores how we can make the same commitment to Christ during Advent, connecting our Wesleyan heritage with the traditional Advent themes of Love, Hope, Joy, and Peace. Videos are available through Amplify Media. Meets via Conference Call to (863) 243-6668 or online via UberConference.

Online Advent Courses

This Blue Christmas
An Experience of Light and Hope in an Unprecedented Advent
November 29 – December 25

This Advent will undoubtedly prove to be an unusual one. In the midst of a global pandemic, following a contentious presidential election in the U.S., and in the swirl of racial unrest, we long for a vision of the Holy One.

The Gospel of John reminds us, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:5). In this season that feels dark to many, as people of faith we have the promise of enduring light. But we’ll need to look for it! What difficulty will the season of Advent hold for you this year? Separation from family? Financial distress? Isolation? The distress of living with the deep unknown? In the midst of the darkness, there is light!

The Upper Room invites you to join us this Advent as we seek the Light in a season of darkness. Together, we will spend daily time reflecting on the light of the season, gather weekly for online worship, and engage in times of prayer and reflection on scripture.

Join us from Sunday, November 29 through Friday, December 25, 2020.

Cost is $50. Learn more and register here. Some scholarship money is available through the Adult Ministries office. Contact Warren Pattison for more information.

The Living Nativity: Preparing for Christmas with Saint Francis
Self-paced online course

Explore Advent with St. Francis and the Upper Room. Francis of Assisi, the well-known thirteenth-century saint, is credited with creating the first nativity scene. The Living Nativity introduces readers to Saint Francis and his joyous reenactment of the birth of Jesus, complete with a manger and animals. Here we will explore how nativity sets, Advent wreaths, candles, carols, Christmas cards, and other traditions help prepare our hearts for the God “who bends low to enter our world and our lives.” Prayer poems for each day of the season lead readers to deepen their spiritual journey, and the content provides a guided pattern for individuals and small groups to share reflections and experience activities that open their hearts to the Christ child.

Cost is $19. Learn more and register here. Some scholarship money is available through the Adult Ministries office. Contact Warren Pattison for more information.


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Lakeland, Florida 33801
(863) 686-3163
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