The Lectionary Companion: An Inspirational Tool for Christian Writers

As a Christian writer, you have no shortage of inspiration available to you. Through prayer, Bible reading, worship, and enjoying God’s presence in nature or in Christian fellowship, not to mention looking at all the names of God, all the testimonies of what He has done, and all the needs lifted up to Him, you have an endless supply of topics to write about.

Sometimes the inspiration is so vast and deep, you may need help to find a simple starting point. Your first starting point should always be prayer and allowing God to lead you. Sometimes it also helps to pray over specific writing prompts.

Here is a good resource that can help you in this process: Abingdon Theological Companion to the Lectionary (published in three volumes, A, B, and C), Paul Scott Wilson, editor.

While the book’s title may not sound very inspiring, the book gives simple yet vivid themes, imagery, and hands-on application and description for weekly groupings of Bible verses. I’ve found this book to be helpful in coming up with ideas for Christian writing.

What is the Revised Common Lectionary?

The book is a companion to the Revised Common Lectionary, which is a weekly grouping of Bible verses that follows the Christian calendar and is used as a reference by many churches. Beginning with the first Sunday of Advent, the lectionary goes all the way through the Christian year. Many churches use the lectionary for their Bible readings, and many pastors write their sermons based on the lectionary scriptures.

The Revised Common Lectionary rotates every year:

Year A = 2019-2020

Year B = 2020-2021

Year C = 2021-2022

Then back to A again, and the cycle repeats.

The Abingdon Theological Companion to the Lectionary has three volumes: Preaching Year A, B, and C. These volumes correspond to the rotation described above.

How the Lectionary Companion Can Inspire Christian Writers

These guides are not just for preachers. They provide wonderful inspiration for Christian writers too, based on a year’s worth of Bible reading and weekly themes.

As a writer, you can use the Abingdon Theological Companion to the Lectionary to write about any of the lectionary verses. You don’t need to write seasonally or for that particular preaching year. Writers on a budget may not want to purchase all three volumes, and that’s okay. Just choose one and it will give you plenty of inspiration for your writing.

If you do decide to use the lectionary companion as a seasonal guide for a particular year (A, B, or C), it may give you an opportunity to write devotionals for your church. If your church follows the Revised Common Lectionary, as many denominations do, your devotionals would add to the biblical experience. Even if your church doesn’t follow the lectionary, you would still be inviting readers to experience the Christian calendar through scripture.

Each week, the lectionary brings together four scripture passages spanning Old and New Testament. As a writer, you can choose one passage to focus on, or prayerfully see how the passages come together and write from that convergence.

The lectionary companion can inspire your writing in many ways. You might be inspired to write on the main theme highlighted in the companion guide. Or you might pick up on one of the theological questions that arise from the readings that week, discussed in the companion guide.

The lectionary companion also gives tangible descriptions and images for pastoral and ethical issues. These can often inspire writing that applies scripture in daily life. The companion also connects the Gospel reading to the bigger biblical narrative, and that connection can also inspire your writing.

You might decide to write one piece based on the lectionary readings for one week. Or you might choose a particular week and write several pieces, perhaps a week-long devotional collection that covers 6 or 7 days and explores the week’s theme more in-depth or from many angles.

Example of Topics for Christian Writers: Second Sunday of Advent

Let’s look at an example to see how the lectionary companion might inspire Christian writing. This example will be from Preaching Year A, second Sunday of Advent (Dec 8, 2019). The readings are Isaiah 11:1-10, Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19, Romans 15:4-13, Matthew 3:1-12.

For that week, the Abingdon Theological Companion to the Lectionary, Preaching Year A, discusses themes of justice, hope, and peace.

Here are some topics you might write about for that theme, inspired by the lectionary companion:

  • How Jesus helps those who are oppressed.
  • How does the Holy Spirit bring justice, or peace, or hope?
  • What are the characteristics of the Holy Spirit? How do you know you’re seeing Him in action?
  • Testimony of when the Holy Spirit brought you into peace or gave you hope.
  • Letter of encouragement to someone who needs the Holy Spirit to meet them in their deepest needs.
  • How does hope give us glimpses of God’s kingdom in the midst of a suffering world?
  • How is biblical hope different from worldly hope or from specific concrete outcomes?
  • Who is Jesus as the Prince of Peace?
  • What kind of Peace does Jesus bring? How does it differ from the world’s peace? What are some examples of this contrast?
  • How does Jesus lead us to befriend one another? What are some specific illustrations?
  • What limits do we put on our hope? What does it mean to expect hope beyond those human limits? Testimony of a time when your idea of hope was expanded. When you were willing to stretch your hope, how did God change your heart?
  • How do we recognize the peace of Christ?
  • How does the peace of Christ differ from earthly peace? What are some examples of this contrast?
  • How do we move deeper into the peace Jesus offers? Helpful tips. Or what kind of story might illustrate this process?
  • Where does the world tempt us with its definition of peace, leading us away from the peace of Christ?
  • What wounding in us causes us to be tempted toward the world’s peace and away from the peace of Christ?
  • How do Isaiah and Paul (in the scripture verses above) suggest we (as individuals or as a church) move deeper into justice, hope, and peace?
  • How does our church relate to people who feel like outcasts or misfits? What would Isaiah or Paul say about it?
  • What do we need to repent of to see greater justice, hope, and peace in our midst?
  • How do we renew our hope?
  • What is the hope Jesus calls us to?

Those are just a few of the topics you might be inspired to write about after reading the lectionary companion for the second Sunday of Advent. If you dig deeper in prayer, you’ll have even more ideas and/or you can drill down further into one of these topics. Each week has new scriptures, new themes, and lots of inspiration for Christian writers.

Always Begin with Prayer

As always, read the scriptures and the lectionary companion prayerfully. See what God highlights for you, what stands out to you or speaks to your heart the most. Pray about which topic to work on next. Then present that topic to the Lord and let Him inspire you for how to approach it. There are so many different ways to write about each topic. Different angles, different readers, different testimonies, different types of writing. Your way will be as unique as you are in this moment.

As you grow in your Christian writing life, you will find many sources of inspiration. The Abingdon Theological Companion to the Lectionary is just one helpful source that I have enjoyed using. It can help you find themes, images, and tangible questions and applications from the lectionary readings. Of course, remember your Bible readings should always begin and end with prayer and the help of the Holy Spirit.

A Child Is Born

I was delighted to run across a meditation I wrote five years ago. I wanted to create a collection of seasonal meditations and managed to write a few before life took me on another writing path.

The writer’s life can be that way, and that’s okay. As long as we are following God, we are moving forward, but the path can meander. God has amazing treasures in store for us on each trail. It’s most important to be present and take in whatever is in front of us in each season.

Whether I will go back and continue writing these meditations in this new season, I don’t know yet. Right now, I’m just enjoying having unearthed them.

These meditations start out in a way similar to devotionals, but with some added steps. Kind of like guided devotionals with a response and an activity, so readers can be not only inspired but also can dig in a little, get some dirt under their fingernails while they experience God’s presence in their midst.

I’m always interested in ways to create deeper studies and experiences that build on the basic idea of a devotional. As writers, we have so much creativity available to write in ways that encourage people to interact with God in His Word. I hope this devotional meditation for the Christmas season will help you reflect on creative ideas for your writing. Be blessed!

Winter Meditation

A Child is Born

Scripture

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined. Isaiah 9:2 (NKJV)

Reflection

I love when the warmth of Christmas meets the cold winter landscape. I didn’t grow up in a cold climate, like the one where I live now. But there was still something about the warmth of Christmas … the light shining in the darkness. Something that welcomed every heart to respond with joy: our Savior is born!

Over the years, that message has never failed to move me. Through every Christmas Eve service of the nearly five decades of my life to date, I have felt the warmth of the presence of Jesus in a way so sweet it makes my heart weep.

This year, the Christmas message was sweeter than ever as it poured its warmth and love into an aching heart. I’ve experienced so many losses over the years, and Christmas is when the remembrance of all of them comes bubbling to the surface.

As I prepared for our Christmas Eve services this year, I had a revelation. God reminded me that despite all the lost relationships in my life, I never lost the one He offers. I confess there have been times when that offering hasn’t satisfied the pain in my heart. There is a season of grief and it is vital for healing. God knows that. But there are times when I chose to carry my sadness of loss much longer than I needed to. I wanted to hold onto my sense of injustice for all that those losses had taken from my life. I refused to exchange that pain for the comfort, healing, and peace He offers.

This Christmas Eve, I decided to let go of my pain. There are losses I will still grieve, as memories surface. But I choose to come out of agreement with a spirit of heaviness that has spent too many Christmas Eves, and all the days in between, in my heart. My heart belongs to God. I choose to let Him come in and dispel my sadness and my sense of injustice and of a life “incomplete.” He is my justice, my wholeness, my joy, and my peace.

As I watched the children of our church family put on a Christmas Eve pageant that included a live baby Jesus, and listened to the words of a song that asked if my Lord Jesus knew, from the first moment He opened his infant eyes, that He would be my Savior, I wept. These were not tears of grief, pain, or loss. They were tears of joy, that this tiny infant’s love for me was greater than all my losses. The life I have in Him is so filled with love and peace that I have yet to fully receive.

I choose to lay down my sadness, to step away from the bleak landscape I’ve inhabited in my thoughts and emotions, and receive the warmth of Christ’s love into my whole heart. Thank You, God, for the warmth of Christmas.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, thank You for coming into our lives – to save us, to lead us, to transform us, to redeem us. Thank You that Your love is stronger than death, stronger than loss, stronger than all the things the enemy throws at us. Thank You, Lord, that You know You’re our Savior, and that it is Your greatest desire that we receive that good news in every part of our hearts. Thank You for bringing the warmth of Your love into our lives. We love You! It’s in Your precious name we pray. Amen

Thoughts

Are there parts of your heart where you haven’t yet received the warmth and fullness of Christ’s love? Will you invite Him to show you what stands in the way … and to help you lay down those things at the Cross, so He can enter into those parts of your heart that you’ve kept locked away?

Is there a loss in your life – a loss of any kind – that you still struggle with? If so, talk to Jesus about that right now. Ask Him to help you find healing and peace through His presence in your heart.

Do you know the difference between healthy, healing grief, and an unhealthy spirit of heaviness, sadness, and despair? Ask the Lord to show you the difference. If you are grieving a loss, ask Him to help you grieve in a way that is healing, and to lift your despair.

Activity

Take a walk or drive to look at Christmas lights. If you drive, if at all possible stop and park your car, so you can spend some time looking and reflecting on the warmth of the Christmas lights. Ask the Lord to join you. Reflect on how those beautiful lights demonstrate the way His light shines into your heart.

Close-Up

For the next five minutes, sit quietly and invite the Lord to sit with you. Do nothing; say nothing. Simply enjoy His presence.

Journal

In a journal or notebook, share your thoughts in a letter to God about what it means to let the warmth of His love fill your heart. Listen for His response and write what you hear.

God’s Invitation to You

Do you know how precious you are to Me? Do you know the depths of My love for you? Do you feel My love in those parts of your heart that have been hurt? Will you allow Me to come in and bring peace?

Your Response to God

God, thank You for loving me with Your whole heart. Help me to give my whole heart to You. Sometimes the thought of opening my whole heart scares me, or feels overwhelming, or seems too much to ask of You. But I want that. I want a heart that is full to overflowing with Your love. God, forgive me for [tell God what you would like forgiveness for, and know that He will forgive you]. God, thank You for [tell God the things you’re thankful for today]. God, I need You. Please help me with [tell God how you would like for Him to work in your heart and life today]. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Sensing God’s Presence

Where do you sense God’s presence?

I sense God’s presence in the scent of the Christmas tree that He lovingly raised in a pine forest and filled with His presence just for me.

I sense God’s presence in the warm smells that come from a Christmas kitchen and in the memories of childhood Christmas meals with family and friends.

I sense God’s presence in the beautiful face of a baby that reminds me of the infant Jesus, and in the sweet chorus of children’s voices as they proclaim His holy birth.

Share with God some examples of where you sense His presence.

God bless you. He loves you so much.

If you enjoyed this meditation, you might like to read two of my spring season meditations:

First Planting – available to read on my blog.

Blanket in the Shade – this link will take you to Reflections Christian Online Magazine, where you can read this spring meditation online.

Advent Is a Great Time for Writing Devotionals

The Advent season will be here soon. A wonderful way to celebrate is by writing devotionals. There are so many creative possibilities to explore. You can write Advent devotionals personally, as a family, or as a church.

Personal Devotionals

Advent is a great season for writing creatively and for reflecting on scripture in your writing. You might enjoy writing your own personal devotionals.

You can take a scripture verse and write a devotional for each week of Advent. If you feel like really digging in, you can write a devotional every day. When the season is over, put your devotionals together as a collection and save them to read each day of Advent next year.

You can also write devotionals as Christmas gifts. Pray for a Bible verse that is meaningful to a family member or friend. Then write a devotional with that person in mind. Give it as a gift. You can also write a devotional as a prayer or blessing for their new year.

Family Devotionals

Writing devotionals together as a family can be a wonderful way to celebrate the Advent season.

On one Sunday of Advent, you can spend family time together writing a devotional. Think about which Bible verse you’d like to share with each other and what story you want to tell to illustrate that verse.

Or maybe take each Sunday to work on one part of a devotional that will be ready by Christmas. Then you can read and pray through the finished devotional together on Christmas Day.

To create your family devotionals, you can choose a scripture verse and decide on a theme. Have each person write a paragraph or even a sentence, then piece those together like a beautiful quilt. You can even write the words on pieces of colored paper and glue them on construction paper – and maybe add some artwork.

Or your family can all pitch in with their thoughts, and you can write them down and weave them into a devotional message.

You can also divide up the parts – one person chooses the scripture verse, another person (or two!) tells the story, another writes the prayer, and someone else chooses the closing thought for the day.

Whichever way you choose to write your family devotional, the important thing is to spend time together, reflecting on what it means to each of you that Christ is born.

Church Devotionals

I enjoyed many years of editing church devotional collections. Each year, I offered a workshop to help people learn devotional writing. Then we would choose our theme and scripture verses. Each person at the workshop would write a devotional – sometimes they would take it home to work on it, but they would start it that day at the workshop and we helped each other.

If other individuals or families wanted to write but couldn’t attend the workshop, I would email them a devotional writing guide, let them know what the theme was, and assign them a scripture verse.

Usually we would have an overall Advent theme, and then a more specific theme for each week of the season. We had enough writers that we wrote a devotional for every day of Advent. But if that’s too many, it would be a blessing to write a devotional for every Sunday in Advent.

Then we would create a PDF file and upload it to the church website. We would also print a few booklets for shut-ins and people who didn’t have internet.

When you are preparing a devotional collection for your congregation to use, it’s important to have pastoral oversight and guidance. Sometimes a devotional writer might inadvertently take liberties with scripture. Your pastor can help you find a loving way to edit the message so it lines up with God’s Word.

The devotional for Christmas Day needs to have a joyful impact. Sometimes the pastor might want to write this one. Or whoever writes it, be sure Joy is the theme and that it really takes readers through a celebration of Jesus’ birth.

Wishing you and your family a very creative and blessed Advent season!