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27.11.2020

Taking Advent wherever you go: an Advent idea

Christmas in church can be like those times when you have a guest coming over for dinner. You hoover, dust, put all the clutter away and put on a good display in the hope that your guests think you’ve got it all together.

There’s nothing wrong with that – Christmas is a time for bringing folk together, a time when our churches welcome in people from right across the community. But three years ago, my community at Balham Baptist Church wondered what it would look like to make a one-degree shift in our focus during this season. To move towards taking Christmas out to people in our everyday lives, as well as ‘hoovering the house’ and putting on a great carol service.

We decided to build on a practice that was already part of our rhythm at Christmas. Each week we go through the Advent story, placing a nativity character in the display and lighting a candle to remind us that through Jesus, God has given us the gifts of hope, love, joy and peace.  To make that one-degree shift, all we did was wrap that idea up and send it home with our people, gently giving them suggestions for how they could journey through Advent and share Christmas with those around them.

What happens is this. Each household takes home an ‘Advent bag’ decorated with a bauble and a gift tag with our chosen theme for that year. Inside are four white tea-lights and a red one for Christmas Day; a postcard displaying the simple instructions for each week; and five envelopes with a chocolate coin inside (one for each week of Advent). We’ve tried to build in the excitement of opening Advent calendars – and everyone from five to 95 years old loves it!

But the real whole-life Christmas magic is contained in the little envelopes. Alongside the chocolate coin is a card, including a verse from the section of the story we’ve focused on that week and a whole-life discipleship practice to attempt. We’ve kept them really simple, hoping that as many of our folk as possible will give it a go.

For example, one year our theme was ‘Whole Life Christmas’. In week four we were thinking about the gift of life Jesus had come to bring, so one of the Advent cards had the verse: ‘I have come that you might have life – life in all its fullness’ (John 10:10).

And the practice we encouraged was simply this: ‘Deliberately make a meal or a coffee, then savour the taste. Try if you can to share this experience with someone on your frontline.’ As a result, people were more intentional about their coffee breaks and mealtimes that week – using them as a chance to bear good fruit on their frontlines, ministering grace and love to their colleagues, friends, and family.

We’ve found this practice just shifts the dial for our church, helping us to see how God is working on our frontlines at Christmas time – and how we can join in. It’s not all about which services you come to and how many of your favourite carols are sung – it’s about putting flesh on the bones of Christmas and living it out in all the places we live, work, study and play.

Why don’t you give something similar a go at your church this year? Even if you have to send it out by post. Christmas is such a great opportunity to share the love of Jesus with those on our frontlines – let’s help our congregations make the most of it.

 

Steve Rouse
Church Team Director
LICC

Author

Steve Rouse