WE CAN STILL ENJOY ADVENT AS COMMUNITY
This year, we are all a bit unsure as to what our Christmas celebrations might look like. It is beyond our experience to think that we may not be able to meet up for all those parties, social gatherings, carol-singing, large gatherings for services and concerts in our churches and communities. But we know that at its heart Christmas is all about the gift of Jesus Christ and all He has come to mean to us as believers and members of this church community.
We wanted to offer an opportunity to focus on this during advent, either individually, though journeying simultaneously with other church family members, or by gathering together weekly (or whatever can be managed) either in person or virtually (should lockdown ease in early December as predicted).
Group sizes will be dictated by government guidelines for Covid-19 if meeting face to face. Arranging groups would have to be done yourselves. There should be a designated group leader to guide the discussion and prayers during a ‘meeting’ and each participant will buy the book before the beginning of December in order to begin on that date. You can also just buy the book and work through it individually at your own pace.
We have prepared weekly questions and discussion headers for the groups (or for you individually if you can’t join a group). They are posted on the webpage for download or can be emailed if you contact us.
There will also be ideas for ways you can reach out to bless loved ones and neighbours during this time. This is not only an opportunity to remember our ‘God with us’, but also to share this Jesus, with others around us in whatever ways we can. We can get creative as we seek to bless and encourage in the Christmas season, especially in this difficult year.
What's this all about?
A MESSAGE FROM JO PHILLIPS
I first came across this advent journey whilst living in Brazil. I loved her poetic and profoundly thoughtful writing. She never rushes, but delves deeply and honestly with a vulnerability that challenges and illuminates in a gentle and authentic voice.
I found the children’s version of this advent devotional. I embraced the opportunity of discipleship for our own children and they loved it. We made our own Jesse Tree and hung a decoration matching the bible story and devotional reading we shared together each day. Our family are looking forward to ‘the Jesse Tree’ time again. Advent comes just a close second to Christmas itself in our house (in fact one of our children prefers advent!).
A couple of years ago I wanted to try the adult version and read the book we suggest to you now. It blessed me so much and reminded me of the important things at this time when we’re so easily distracted and distressed by things that have no right to make me so. It drew me closer to God and stilled my noisy internal voices so I could hear what He had for me day by day. Perhaps that blessing may also be for you this year.
The idea of a Jesse Tree is far from new. It originates in the book of Isaiah 11:1:
“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.”
The medieval church celebrated the advent season with stained glass windows, carvings and paintings of the family tree of Jesus Christ based on the genealogy found in the gospel of Matthew. Following the Reformation some churches disliked the use of such images, but others continued the practice. Throughout advent the stories of the characters in this family tree are retold. Many rich gifts are imparted as we remember the intentional plans of God woven into these biblical narratives, in order to bring us our King of kings and Lord of lords - not in a palace, but a stable.
This book extends to the reader an invitation to unwrap the greatest gift ever given; and the invitation to slowly unwrap the gift of time in the season of advent. To be still, and wait on God for a moment each day as we read and meditate upon Scripture.
I wonder if you would like to join me in accepting the invitation this year?
What are you suggesting?
Most simply, this is an invitation to enjoy reading and working your way through the book, The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the full Love Story this Christmas, until we celebrate together (face to face or heart to heart) the arrival of God in the manger all those years ago, but in our own hearts whenever we invite Him!
It would be lovely if we could share thoughts, experiences, photos, favourite verses or quotes, anecdotes, prayers, thanks and ideas for reaching out on our church facebook pages and/or webpage. We want to encourage one another and travel through advent as a church family together.
You can get as creative as you want (or don’t want!). Create your own Jesse Tree and set it up in your home, download paper ornaments to tie onto your tree each day. This reminds us of Jesus’ family story as we move about our homes and get on with living our days. It also grants us opportunities to share about our faith as visitors (or FaceTime callers) catch a glimpse of our Jesse Tree and ask questions.
If you would like to take part please let us know that you will be doing so (contact details are below).