When something hits close to home, it affects us deeply. During the Advent and Christmas season, we journey through scriptures and rituals that are tender, heavy with emotion, and vulnerable. We carry the memories and truths of this season close to our hearts. The Close to Home theme acknowledges the “already but not yet” tension of our faith: Emmanuel is with us, and yet, God’s promised day—our everlasting home—is not fully realized. It names our deep longing for God to come close to us.

The Advent and Christmas scriptures are rich with home metaphors and imagery. In these scriptures, home is both physical and metaphorical, something we seek and something we are called to build. In many ways, these scriptures are like blueprints—detailing the dreams of a God who makes a home with us. Ultimately, God is our home and resting place. God draws near and makes a home on earth; sacred ground is all around us.

This Advent, may we be comforted by the One who dwells intimately with us. May we expand safety and sanctuary for everyone wandering far from home. May we come home—wherever home is found—to live fully with joy, hope, and courage.

About the bundle:

This is a bundle of 9 multimedia ministry resources (plus 2 bonus resources & free supplements) for the season of Advent–Epiphany, following the RCL for Year C. Download our free theme infographic to learn more about our theme, Close to Home. We bundle our resources because they often overlap in use, and because we want to equip you with comprehensive materials for a whole season. Each resource is also available separately. Scroll down this page & click the “Resource Details” buttons to learn more about each individual resource.

Note: All resources are digital files.


WHAT’S INCLUDED IN THE BUNDLE:

(All of the following resources are included in the bundle, but each resource is also available separately for individual purchase)

1. Close to home Advent devotional

(Individual Price: $18–$85)

Beginning with the first Sunday in Advent, this daily devotional follows the Revised Common Lectionary (Year C) through Epiphany. Each day offers something new: commentary, poetry, visual art, hymns, journaling, and Sabbath prompts. It includes contributions from our guest contributors, Elder Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri and Rev. T. Denise Anderson.


2. Close to Home Words for Worship

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(Individual Price: $25)

A collection of over 60 liturgies, this resource provides fresh language for worship inspired by the RCL scriptures and our Advent theme, Close to Home.

For each Sunday in Advent through Epiphany, we provide a Call to Worship, Candle Lighting Liturgy, Call to Confession, Prayer of Confession, Words of Forgiveness, Prayer for Illumination, Call to Offering, Prayer of Dedication, and Prayer of the People. We hope you will copy/paste or adapt these prayers for your corporate worship (with credit).


3. Close to Home Advent Calendar for Children & Families

(Individual Price: $5-$55)

Want a fun and meaningful way to journey through Advent together as a family? Print our Advent Calendar on 11x17 paper and hang it on your fridge. Starting on December 1st, count down the days of Advent by moving a magnet to mark each day. Then, complete the daily action prompt together as a family.


4. Close to Home Sermon Planning Guide

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(Individual Price: $15)

For the Revised Common Lectionary scriptures for Advent–Epiphany (Year C), this guide offers you biblical commentary, theme connections, guiding questions, and links to further reading. This guide features biblical commentary on the weekly gospel scriptures by our guest contributor, Elder Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri. 

We encourage you to use this guide as a starting point for your text study each week. We also provide a fillable Sermon Planning Grid to help you map out your ideas for your series.


5. Close to Home Visual Art Collection

(Individual Price: $70)

This is a collection of 13 visuals inspired by the RCL scripture texts for Advent–Epiphany, Year C. These art pieces, created in a variety of mediums—paper lace, acrylic and oil painting, hand-cut block prints, and digital media—are visual meditations on these texts. With each visual, we include written statements from the artists. We also provide a visio divina bible study guide for you to use these images in a group session incorporating the ancient Benedictine spiritual practice of "divine seeing." This collection includes artwork created by our guest artist, Rev. T. Denise Anderson.


6. Chosen Home: an at-home liturgy for the first Sunday after Christmas

(Individual Price: $7)

Centered around the story of young Jesus staying behind in the temple, this liturgy is designed for individuals and families—including children—to walk through together, screen-free. It can also be adapted for an intimate in-person or online communal worship service.


7. Close to Home Banner Designs

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(Individual Price: $20)

This Advent, project & trace these designs to create painted or paper lace banners for your sanctuary or sacred space. We hope these designs (and our instructional materials) can simply be a starting point for you to create art and beauty that is uniquely your own. Read this blog post for a number of creative ways to bring these designs to life. The download also includes a large, color file for printing the designs as one 6’x8’ vinyl banner (through a company such as Got Print) to install and display on the exterior of your church building throughout the Advent and Christmas season.

“Imagery inspired by the texts for this season of Advent (from the RCL, Year C), as well as our theme and sub-themes for Close to Home, emerge in the doorways of this banner design. . . . The overall motif, originally designed by Lauren Wright Pittman as the theme logo for the Close to Home Advent series, incorporates a hand reaching up and one reaching down. In the banner design, these hands are patterned with doves in motion to represent the Holy Spirit.”
—Hannah Garrity, banner design artist and Founding Creative Partner of SA


8. Close to Home Branding Bundle

(Individual Price: $45)

Whether you are a church with a full-time communications staff or one whose pastor handles all communications (on top of everything else), this branding bundle provides everything you need to effectively share the Close to Home theme with your community. Download includes beautifully-designed logos and theme graphics for print and web so you can use them for worship projection, bulletins, study materials, church publications, or for advertising events on your website and social media platforms.

“The icon in our Close to Home logo conveys a theological concept of home. The hands express our deep longing for connection, intimacy, and for God to come close. As the hands—representing both God’s hands and the hands of humanity—draw closer to one another, they form a structure of home.”
—Rev. Lauren Wright Pittman & Rev. Lisle Gwynn Garrity


9. Close to Home Advent Poems

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(Individual Price: $12)

This collection of seven poetic prayers explores the Close to Home weekly sub-themes in light of the RCL (Year C) scriptures for Advent–Epiphany. Honest and intimate, these poems offer meditations that might become prayers of your own. We hope you might adapt them for worship liturgy, use them to open and close programming events, or print them as they are for members in your community to read and return to throughout the Advent season.

Is there anything more healing
than an open door?
If you’re seeking sanctuary,
if the waters are rising—
listen.
It may be hard to hear,
but God is always saying,
“Come on home.”
—Rev. Sarah (Are) Speed, from “Come On Home”



10. BONUS RESOURCE: Close to Home Longest Night Liturgy

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(Individual Price: $12)

Known also as “Blue Christmas,” a Longest Night Gathering is a safe and sacred space to mourn the losses and griefs of the year, to let the tears flow for the hurting places in our own lives, as well as for our country and our world. This full order of worship is designed for congregational worship (in-person and/or virtually), but it can also be used by individuals in the comfort of their own home using the suggested adaptations.

We are a brave face when we have to be strong.
We are tears in the shower when grief roars its head.
We are setting the table, but there are empty seats.
We are stuck in the swell, caught in the storm.
We are moving on, caught in our guilt.
We are okay some days, but some days we’re not.
We are familiar with the night, we know it by name.
We are night-walkers, dream-makers, star-chasers.
We are close to home, but home has changed.

We are here.
Grief is here.
God is here.
—Rev. Sarah (Are) Speed, excerpt from the opening poem


11. Bonus resource: close to home theme song Music video (by Barnaby bright)

(Individual Price: $25)

This video features our Close to Home Advent theme song written and recorded by Becky & Nathan Bliss of Barnaby Bright. We hope this music video helps connect your heart and soul to our Close to Home theme, giving language to our deep longing to come home to God wherever we are. You are welcome to embed this music video in your live-streamed or online worship.

Note: The un-watermarked video is now included with all Close to Home bundle purchases. If you previously purchased the bundle, no need to buy the video—navigate to the Patron Access Page to download it.


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FREE SUPPLEMENTS

We hope our resources are nourishing and generative, inviting you to get creative and engage deeply. To help you implement all of the bundled materials, we’re rolling out some free supplements. We’ll update this page as soon as each of these supplements is available. Bundle patrons have access to everything listed.

This is a collection of 5 original hymns inspired by our weekly sub-themes and written by Rev. Anna Strickland. Each hymn offers new words to sing with familiar Advent tunes. Download the sheet music to include these hymns in your corporate worship. Note: These hymns are also included in our Advent devotional booklet for individuals and families to sing at home.

In this blog post, we’re curating a long list of music ideas—both traditional and contemporary—for worship, fellowship, and listening. We’ll outline worship music ideas for each Sunday in Advent–Epiphany that fit well with our Close to Home theme and weekly sub-themes.

In this blog post, Rev. Anna Strickland has crafted creative children’s lessons—perfect for worship or engagement at home.

  • A CONTENT CALENDAR FOR SOCIAL MEDIA (AVAILABLE NOW TO all BUNDLE PATRONS!)

    To support you in sharing this Advent series with your community online, we’ve mapped out a content calendar for you to use throughout the season. We have carefully selecting images, graphics, and excerpts for you to post on your social media platforms so you can share the series with your larger community, near and far. If you are a bundle patron, navigate to the bottom of the Patron Access Page to find and use this resource.


Meet our guest contributors

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Elder Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri

Writer, Educator, & Ruling Elder

Vilmarie (she/her) is an educator and a ruling elder. Ordained for 26 years, she has served in the Presbyterian Church (USA) at the Session, Presbytery, Synod, and General Assembly levels. Vilmarie holds a B.A. in Education (ESL) and an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Teaching. She has taught English and English as a Second Language to teenage and adult students from all over the world. Vilmarie and her husband, Rev. José Manuel Capella-Pratts, live in Miami, FL. Along with the Rev. Cindy Kohlmann, she served as Co-Moderator of the 223rd General Assembly (2018) of the Presbyterian Church (USA), the first Hispanic Latina and first Puerto Rican person to be elected to this office. Among her loves is the love of art in its many forms. These days she feels closer to God through color, shapes, and movement, exploring watercolor painting as a form of prayer and engaging in one of her preferred spiritual practices, “Praying in Color.”

Vilmarie has written biblical commentary featured in our devotional and sermon planning guide.


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Rev. T. Denise Anderson

Acting Director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries

Denise (she/her) is a minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the acting Director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries. A graduate of Howard University School of Divinity, she is the former Co-Moderator of the 222nd General Assembly (2016) of the Presbyterian Church (USA). A nationally-recognized writer and blogger, Denise’s work has appeared in The Christian Century, The Huffington Post, These Days, and on her own blog, SOULa Scriptura: To Be Young, Gifted, and Reformed: soulascriptura.com. Denise writes, preaches, and engages on issues of social justice, diversity, and reconciliation. As a gifted visual artist, she creates art that explores themes of spirituality, history, religion, and race: tdandersonart.com.

Denise has created visual art and written artist statements that are featured in our devotional and visual art collection.


Becky & nathan bliss of Barnaby Bright

Musicians & Worship Leaders

Becky (she/her) and Nathan (he/him) work as musical directors for The Gathering Service at Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village, Kansas (vpcthegathering.org). Together they also create and perform music as Barnaby Bright (barnabybright.com).

Introduced by a booking agent in Kansas City in 2005 after college, Becky and Nathan moved to Brooklyn, got married, and started the indie folk band, Barnaby Bright. After the release of their first full-length album in 2009, they began touring extensively all over the world, playing roughly 150 shows a year. After six years of steady touring, releasing three full-length albums, winning several international songwriting awards and gracing such notable stages as Lincoln Center and NPR’s Mountain Stage, they returned to Kansas City and were thrilled to accept the position as musical directors for The Gathering service at Village Church. Their most sincere hope since they began their musical journey together over 10 years ago was that their songs and sounds would inspire, uplift, and connect audiences to something greater than themselves. Being able to do this on a weekly basis in a more focused, intentional way gives them great joy.

Becky and Nathan have written and produced our Close to Home theme song.