Here’s the Best Programming on FORMED for Advent
The season of Advent is here! The feast of Christmas is such an important one that the Church gives us the season of Advent to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ. There is a wealth of content on the Formed website and app that can enrich our spiritual journey toward Christmas.
As the weather turns colder, it's only natural that people spend more time inside and inevitably in front of their devices. But this Advent, why not try turning off secular entertainment and taking advantage of some of the great programs offered on Formed.org?
Here’s a few of their best offerings that might help you along your journey this Advent.
Steve Ray’s Footprints of God Series: Jesus: The Word Became Flesh (1 hr. 36 min.)
Apologist, evangelist, speaker, and Catholic enthusiast Steve Ray filmed ten episodes of the Footprints of God series. The episodes cover important figures in salvation history, and last between an hour and an hour and a half each. Steve Ray’s documentary is more than just a lecture: he traveled to the Middle East to visit the actual sites having to do with the title figures in each episode. The episode “Jesus: the Word Became Flesh” starts with the Christmas story. In the episode on Jesus, he goes to Bethlehem, the fields and caves where the shepherds gathered. He visits the Church of the Nativity, and then Mary & Joseph’s house in Egypt.
In the season of the Incarnation, we celebrate God becoming man. Jesus wasn’t a mere illusion or spirit—while on earth, He walked, slept, had to go to work, and ate meals. Seeing actual places where Jesus lived illuminates the Incarnation in our minds.
Movie: Mary of Nazareth (2 hr. 41 min.)
This movie came out in 2012 and stars Alissa Jung as Our Blessed Mother. The story draws on Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and “small ‘t’” tradition. Not all the elements of Our Lady’s early life are part of Catholic doctrine—that is, there’s no obligation on us to believe all of the elements of the “small ‘t’ tradition.” Even with that, nothing in the movie is unfaithful to the deposit of faith. The movie starts with Mary as a little girl and concludes with the Resurrection of Jesus. The movie shows the events of the Christmas story, from the Annunciation and Visitation to the birth of Jesus to the visit of the shepherds and the Magi. Like the Footprints of God series, seeing Our Blessed Mother as a woman who walked among us can help us get a more grounded picture of her… and thus see her as a more relatable person.
Documentary series: From Nothing to Cosmos with Fr. Robert Spitzer (4 episodes, 1 hr. each)
This series doesn’t have anything explicitly to do with Advent or Christmas. Fr. Robert Spitzer holds advanced degrees in philosophy and physics, and is an encyclopedia of information on the topic of faith and science. Why is there something rather than nothing? Does God exist? How can the arguments of atheists be disproved, using scientific facts and not Bible verses? You’ll learn scientific terms and laws you never knew existed. The workbook for the series is included for easy download in PDF format.
If you have a family get-together coming up this holiday season, and any spirited conversations in store regarding faith and science, this is a great series to watch.
FORMED Daily: Advent with Dr. Tim Gray
There are many devotional booklets that have daily reflections on Advent, but there aren't many in video format. If you have the FORMED app on your smartphone, you can have Dr. Tim Gray’s daily, short reflections on the Advent season wherever you go. Each video lasts from 3-5 minutes, and they cover topics specifically on Advent. They’re a great way to take the season a little slower and enjoy the weeks leading up to Christmas. Don’t skip ahead right to Christmas and miss the preparation of Advent!
Audio talk: Who Do You Say That I Am? by Bishop Robert Barron (1 hr. 11 min.)
This is one of my favorite talks from the Augustine Institute, and is one worth giving to friends and family in my opinion. Bishop Barron focuses specifically on the person of Jesus and the four tasks of the Messiah according to the Scriptures. If we name Jesus as the reason for the season, we should know who He is. Taking a deeper dive into the Scriptures can only bring us closer to Him whom we celebrate.
This talk and many others are perfect for turning on during the daily commute.
Video: St. Nicholas: The Real Story (55 min.)
This documentary examines the historical person of St. Nicholas, a 4th century bishop of Myra, on the southern coast of modern-day Turkey. He was born in about 260 A.D., during a century of intense persecution of Christianity. Although the historical evidence is scant, St. Nicholas did exist. He led a very holy life, attended the Council of Nicaea in 325, and showed a great love for his fellow Christians. Without the holy figure of St. Nicholas, the legend of Santa Claus that we know today wouldn’t have a foundation. St. Nicholas reminds us that the true spirit of the Advent and Christmas seasons comes from a Christ-like love.
Audio talk: The True Meaning of Christmas by Ven. Fulton Sheen (57 min.)
This list wouldn’t be complete without the 20th century’s greatest Catholic evangelist, Archbishop Fulton Sheen. He will be beatified on December 21, which is exciting for American Catholics and all who listened to him. In this talk, Archbishop Sheen looks at the prophecies that led up to the coming of Jesus Christ. By examining this, Sheen takes up the argument that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life for all of humanity. The message of Jesus encompasses the whole world, not just Christians. Catholicism isn’t just one religion among many, but the fullness of truth. Listen to Archbishop Sheen’s eloquence and renew your commitment to Christ.
Bible Study Series: Lectio: Mary, the Bible and the Mother of God (8 episodes, about 35 min. each)
Dr. Brant Pitre filmed this installment of the Lectio series on Our Blessed Mother. Each episode builds on the previous one, and the whole series is worth watching. To deepen your Advent, watch the third episode, “The Mother of the Messiah.” Dr. Pitre covers Mary’s most important titles, the Mother of God. It’s an important reminder that everything Mary is, is because of her Son, Jesus. Everything she does in heaven, and has done since her assumption, has the one goal of leading us closer to Christ. There’s no better season than Advent to grow closer to Our Blessed Mother, and letting her bring us closer to her baby boy.
This study is one among six other Lectio Bible studies, all of which are worth watching—on the Gospel of Mark, the Eucharist, prayer, St. Peter, the Letter to the Philippians, and evangelization.
Let’s not forget that distraction can be as effective of an obstacle to spiritual growth as sin. As Christmas approaches, and brings stress, family get-togethers, involuntary work parties, and lists, offer to Jesus one of your most precious gifts: your time.
Editor's note: The editor of this blog is married to an employee of the Augustine Institute, the parent company of FORMED.