For the first time, Augsburg Fortress is releasing a devotional for the seasons of Advent and Christmas, spanning the time from the Sunday known as Advent 1 (November 29, 2020) through Epiphany (January 6, 2021). This year’s Advent and Christmas devotional is called Our Hope and Expectation, and it is a wonderful resource for individual or family home devotion and reflection during this time of pandemic. Our Hope and Expectation reminds readers again and again that we hope for, long for, and expect the presence of Jesus in our lives, yet at the same time we acknowledge that Jesus is already present with us.
The devotional pairs familiar lectionary texts from books of the Bible such as Isaiah and Mark with quotes from writers or theologians or from beloved Advent hymns. Following these are reflections and prayers written by Paul E. Hoffman, Annabelle Markey, Michael Coffey, Rozella Haydée White, Troy M. Troftgruben, and Pam Fickenscher. This structure, with a Bible text, a quote from another religious source, a reflection by a theologian, and a closing prayer, should be familiar to users of Augsburg Fortress’ annual Lent devotional. Another similarity to our Lent devotional is that, in addition to written content that provokes thought and reflection, each day has a full-color photo that relates to the writer’s message.
This is a devotional that helps its readers be in awe of what God has already done, be curious about what God is currently doing, and be expectantly hopeful about what God will do in the future. It reminds us that humans are both sinful and redeemed and that the life of faith is worthwhile yet non-linear, progressing at God’s pace—setbacks, fresh starts, and all. Our Hope and Expectation tells us that all time belongs to Jesus and that Scripture instructs us to seek God rather than our own gain.
During this time of pandemic, many of our Advent and Christmas traditions are likely to be modified or canceled altogether. Yet as Troy M. Troftgruben reminds us in the devotional entry for Christmas Eve, it is often in the disruption of our traditions that we find God. This is not to say it is wrong to mourn the events that have been lost to the pandemic, but it is to say that that God shows up in unexpected places and is by no means gone just because the Christmas pageant and candlelight service have been canceled. “O Christ child, let us welcome you into our homes, our lives, and our hearts, especially when you show up unexpectedly. Amen.”