Lydia Harrison, from the Prayer team, led a beautiful and gentle Facebook Live on 24 November:
Life is a bit upside down and messy at the moment. We don’t really know what’s going on, what is best to do, in terms of keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe. Because of Covid-19, life has been turned upside down in many ways, and lots of things have been cancelled or postponed, and we’ve had to plan things really carefully, even trips to the shops. You can’t just pop out for milk anymore – you have to don masks and hand sanitizer, and remember to stay away from everyone you don’t live with. Meeting up with friends and family has been hard to do. Some of us are grieving the loss of loved ones, and we are broken-hearted.
On top of this, Christmas day is a month today! Today is 25 November! Are you ready for what’s to come? Have you, like me, got an overlarge turkey in your freezer? Your veg ordered? Bits of gifts bought – not wrapped yet, but bought? If you’re involved in children and families ministry, like me, maybe your house is starting to slowly fill up with bits to put in craft packs, maybe to put in the post or drop off at some point? Wondering when you’re going to fit everything in? Enough risk assessments to decorate every wall in your house with? Or maybe you’re sat in the quiet, wondering how Christmas is going to look because it seems impossible, because it’s just you, there’s no help, no one to talk to, you’re missing the children you normally work alongside.
However, before I get to the point of spiralling out of control, thinking of all the to-do lists that are as yet unfinished but somehow growing by the hour, or thinking about how complicated and impossible Christmas looks right now, let’s take minute. Stop. Breathe.
God is with us.GOD is with us.God IS with us.God is WITH us.God is with US.
Even in the midst of despair, even when we are too busy, when things aren’t going to plan, when we aren’t paying attention, in the mess of life. GOD IS WITH US.
Even in the midst of joy, when we are sat still, when we are in tune with God’s plan, when we are paying full attention, in the mess of life. GOD IS WITH US.
I don’t know about you, but Christmas seems to be hurtling towards me faster than I can process! This year has been so strange, and the days have blurred together.
I asked a variety of people to tell me what the word Advent means to them.
Words like waiting, preparation, thinking, long way to go, coming came up, but also words like impatience, unimaginable, promises, stripping back. I wonder what words you have?
What words do you associate with Advent?
What words do you associate with Christmas?
Do these words change in the context of 2020 and Covid-19 restrictions?
I think its important to note that the words themselves may not change – but their meanings and emphases might. So waiting for me – is waiting for the time when I can get back out there and do the children’s work, to run Messy Church again, to be with people? As a person who is shielding, this has been really hard! I almost feel like my life has been paused and I’m waiting for it to get started. That said there have been opportunities to share in God’s love and work and it has been a beautiful time as well.
In Advent, we prepare for the coming of the Christ child. This is the Christ child: he’s holding out his hands to give you a hug. Goodness knows we need those right now.
In Advent, there are loads of different ways to mark our days. These days you can buy Advent calendars of all sorts of things – even for dogs! I wonder what the most bizarre or unusual Advent calendar you’ve seen is? I’ve seen a glow-in-the-dark candy one, 24 selfies to Christmas, Lego, Pringles and CHEESE!
There are also ways to mark the time like Advent rings and liturgies, to help us focus on Christ. To become Christ-centered again. In reorientating ourselves back to Christ, we find a sense of peace and calm. Its not just a one-time deal, but he is a constant presence – draw near to God and he will draw near to you.
The Christ child grew up and became a man, and that man died, which was really sad, but also wondering in an Easter sort of way. Because now he can reach out and give the whole world a hug.
We are an Easter people. We live in the light of the resurrection – what could this tell us? What could this tell our neighbours? Tell the world?
How do we know we are loved?
How do we help others know that we are loved?
Christ came in to the world where there was no room for him whatsoever.
How do we make room?
God has space and room for everyone.
Advent leads us to Bethlehem. It leads us to the Christ child. Christmas gives us hope, light, Jesus, a love that came down for US. God is with us. God is for us. He brings us peace, and joy, and love. He’s a reason to celebrate! This Advent and this Christmas may look and feel different, but God hasn’t changed. I wonder how we can find life in all of its messiness. I wonder if we could take some time each day to sit with God and reflect with him about what this season might teach us. How can we still watch for signs of God in these difficult times?
With thanks to Jocelyn for this prayer:
Messy Advent blessing
May the stories you tell,the people you meet,the ways you fill your daysduring this seasonbring you closer to Bethlehem.
May your heart be full of kindness and compassion,may you say thank you and I’m sorry often.
May you find the courage to be brave like Mary,to say yes to God wherever God is calling you,remembering that, on your journey,there will be darkness and there will be light,but that God is always with you.Amen.
This prayer was written by Aaron Jenkyn in Newport, New Hampshire, USA.
There are lots of Advent resources out there but these are some I have found helpful so far!
Roots on the web
The Cross in my Backyard
Advent Together by Steve and Bekah Legg
Traci Smith: Faithful Families for Advent and Christmas