SIMPLY CHRISTMAS — AN ADVENT EXPERIENCE — WEEK ONE
A word from Pastor Dennis Day:
An Advent Experience…
Greetings and welcome to the Advent Experience Devotional. We trust it will enhance and inspire your Advent experience this year. All of us look forward to celebrating the birth of our Savior on Christmas Day…but not all of us have experienced the rich traditions, good connections with others, or the simple eternal truths of Christmas of the past. It is our desire to share with our church body, in a fresh way, some of these rich experiences in a devotional form.
This guide is not supposed to be something that adds more stress to your season but, rather, it is a way that we can all slow down and go deeper into the true meaning of this wonderful celebration. You can do this as a family, as a life group, or as a group of friends together. Any way you choose to use this devotional will be great!
For some this time of year reminds you of times past that are no more…and so it can be painful. For others it is a time of great, spontaneous joy with kids and grandkids. However this season finds you, it is my prayer that you will extract every bit of joy and meaning from this Advent/Christmas season. So bring your family and friends together, or find a place of quietness yourself, and enter into a season of…SIMPLY CHRISTMAS.
For Christians, Advent marks the beginning of a new year. Churches follow what is called the “Christian calendar,” which takes us through various seasons during a year’s time, and Advent is the very first season of the Christian year.
Over two-thousand years ago, the people of Israel were looking forward to a person, called the Messiah, who was supposed to come and deliver them. They were oppressed by the rulers of the land, and they looked forward to a day when they would be freed, when the tables would be over-turned and they would rejoice in the fulfillment of the prophecies of this magnificent coming. They were looking for someone to save them. And then Jesus came — freeing them not from their current bondage, but from eternal bondage, offering a radically full life that will not fade.
During the four weeks leading up to Christmas, Advent is a distinct time of waiting and preparing, letting ourselves experience what Israel experienced as they waited and prepared for their savior to arrive. But it is not only a time of remembering and re-telling the Christmas story of how Christ came to earth, but also a time for us now, in the 21st century, to look forward with anticipation to when Christ will come again. We look forward in hope, just as Israel did. And we celebrate in Christ’s coming.
Advent isn’t just about waiting for the darkness of this world to end, though. It’s also about embodying the light of Christ, and helping to shine into the darkness of our world now. Thisseason is naturally about giving, and it is our joy and duty as Christians to shine Christ’s light as we do so. It’s possible to give without loving, but it’s impossible to love without giving.
So throughout these four weeks, let’s journey together, reflecting on the story of Christ’s first coming, looking forward to His second coming, and embodying his love and light to our community of Oroville in the meantime. In this journey of reflecting, waiting, hoping, and doing, we will experience the extraordinary joy that Christmas is meant to hold as the culmination of this process. We will see what a gift it truly is that God, in all His compassionate glory, came to us as a helpless babe two-thousand years ago, and that He will come again as our reigning King.
FAMILY DEVOTIONAL GUIDE
This guide is to be used in community. If you don’t live with a family, then maybe you can get together with other single people or with another family to go through this together. Either way though, in using this guide, you will be challenged to get out into the community in various ways. Part of the purpose of this devotional experience is to discover what sorts of things we were made for. One of the things we were made for is community, so don’t venture into this Advent journey alone.
Some of you may be familiar with the practices and traditions of advent while others of you may not be. That’s OK.
This weekly booklet will guide you through different practices like scripture reading and reflection, prayer, and it will explore two traditional aspects of the Christian Advent season: the
lighting of the Advent Wreath candles and the use of the Revised Common Lectionary. Both of these are adapted to be easy for you and your family to use and explore.
The Sunday devotional sections are to allow your family to continue the spirit of worship even once you’ve left the Church building that morning. These sections will be based on the gospel reading for the day and will focus on the main theme of that scripture passage. These days are also where you will find the “Advent Theme” section, introducing each week’s candle from the Advent wreath and what it represents.
The weekday devotions are broken up into sections. The first section, “Connection,” is a practical, daily way to help you apply the Advent candle’s theme to your everyday life. This section will encourage your family to connect in your community and to really live out this Advent experience outside of your devotional times.
The second sections is the “Family Devotion.” The gospel readings presented here are taken from the readings for Year Two of the “Daily Office Lectionary” in the Book of Common Prayer. Millions of people follow along through these scripture readings during this season and your family can reflect and go deeper into these well-known stories side-by-side with Christians all over the world.1
Adapted from Paul Sheneman, Illuminate: an Advent Experience. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill of Kansas City, 2011. Print.