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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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An Advent journey for the whole church family

A few weeks ago, my family and I came across a shop dedicated all year round to Christmas decorations. Our family love Christmas. And though we didn’t buy anything, it was quite fun (though, admittedly, a bit surreal) to be bauble browsing in July.

Most of us start our thinking about Christmas a bit nearer to the season. To be honest, so much time and preparation seems to be needed, it feels like it needs to start in July. But often, the one thing that doesn’t get prepared for Christmas is us. And that’s where Advent comes in.

For all the evangelistic and outreach opportunities Christmas provides, as church leaders we surely want to see our own congregations growing as disciples through this season. And one way is to give them a fresh perspective on a ‘story’ they might think they know all about and connects to their everyday lives.

In her 2021 Advent book, The Whole Christmas Story, Jo Swinney reminds us that the Christmas narrative is part of God’s much bigger story. God’s good world is broken by sin and evil and crying out for redemption, and Jesus is God’s loving gift of an answer. Going all the way from creation to the new creation, she takes readers on a sweeping tour of the Bible, showing how Christmas itself points to God’s big plans to save his world.

For this Advent, Jo and LICC have teamed up to adapt the book into a 25-day devotional prayer journey that goes even further, connecting the whole story of Christmas to the whole of our lives. Using the journey, readers will be challenged to see how the extraordinary message of the gospel applies to our everyday. This is a fantastic opportunity to enable people in our churches to see beyond the Christmas story they may feel they know inside out to the bigger picture it’s part of.

So, how could we use this devotional journey in our churches to maximum effect?

Encourage the church to do the journey together.

There are lots of Advent resources out there, but there is something powerful about a church doing a journey together. Especially with the ability to share encouragements.

Get people messaging each other with encouragements and challenges

This might be easier through your small groups, if you have them. Even if they aren’t meeting so much in December (it’s a busy time after all) encourage them to text or message each other with things that have particularly struck them. They could do this in the evening if they’ve been able to apply something from the devotion to their day.

Something visual

Set up a ‘what struck me this week’ feedback sheet on a noticeboard or similar and ask people to put their comments on sticky notes. You could then publish them (anonymously) in your church news sheet or email, so it’s there as part of your communication.

Keep it in mind

A month or so after Christmas you could ask what has particularly stayed with people and what they’ve been able to apply to their own everyday discipleship. The reality is that Advent isn’t about preparing us for Christmas at all, but to grow in our hope in Christ. To see the big picture and our ordinary lives in the context of God’s eternal plans. Let’s get ready.

Jules Gadsby
Church Engagement Specialist, LICC


  1. I already have Jo Swinney’s booked. When will you have the 25 day prayer devotional dairy on line so that I can look at it. The red link doesn’t work! I would like to see if possible to see it and know where I can purchase it. Thanks

    By Angela MILLS  -  27 Sep 2023
  2. Like Angela we are interested in doing the Jo Swinney whole christmas prayer journey but, despite emails now coming in about a Lent resource, can’t see how to join the Advent resource. The re link still doesan’t work!
    In previous years it has been very simple.

    By Andrew and Hilary Walker  -  6 Nov 2023
    • Hi Andrew,
      This link should be fixed now!
      Please let me know if you are still having issues accessing the link.
      Digital Lead, LICC

      Darby Vincent
      By Darby Vincent Digital Lead

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