Well, my lego star wars advent calendar was safely delivered to church yesterday by the amazon delivery man. Christmas is nearly upon us!
Even in my 30s I love waking up every morning, opening the little door (and making the little lego model) as I have my own little count down to Christmas at home, down New Hall Drive. I'm a big kid at heart - but you all know that already!
Traditionally, however, advent is meant to be quite a different countdown. We're meant to use these weeks running up to Christmas to remember, look forward to the time when Jesus will come again. When (as Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians) "... the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels". When he comes back once and for all as Lord and King to reign forever. Advent is all about Jesus' second coming. For his people, that day will will be way more exciting than Christmas. On that day heaven will come down to earth - God will be with with his people, once and for all. "No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever." (Revelation 22v3-5) What a great day that will be!
And so it makes sense for his people to count down to it.
How can we do that? How an we use this time to count down to Jesus' second coming... and how can we help our families to do the same?
Well, here are four options for advent calendar-y type things that might help us give it a go.
1. This year, the Good Book Company have brought out a new children's book. It's called "The Littlest Watchman". It's really a book for younger children (certainly under 7s), but it all about waiting... waiting for Jesus to come the first time... but also waiting for his second coming. This book (and the Advent Calendar that goes with it) are a great place to start. Why not have a look at their website for some more information: https://www.thegoodbook.co.uk/the-littlest-watchman.
2. Buy/make a 'Jessie Tree'. The idea for this comes from Isaiah 11:1-2: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” If you were at the Pathfinder led All-Age Service last year, you'll have seen that come to life in front of you as our Pathfinders explained it. If you missed that though, don't panic! In essence, through Isaiah, God promised his exiled, beleaguered and downtrodden people that a new shoot (new life) would grow from the stump that was left of his people, Israel. Jesus is that promised shoot, and he came from the stump (the family) of Jesse - the Father of King David.
A recent blog I found about these says that, "Through the Jesse Tree, we can see the faithfulness of the Living God across 4,000 years of human history. We can connect the custom of decorating Christmas trees for our front room with the story of King Jesus, and we can build joy and anticipation with our children as we wait for the coming King." (https://cheerfullygiven.com/blog/the-jesse-tree-advent-tree-ornaments-centred-on-jesus) That sounds a great way to celebrate Advent together! An old friend of mine runs a resource website called 'Gospel Centred parenting' (https://www.gospelcentredparenting.com), and they have created a beautiful Jessie Tree option for families to do together. It uses the Jesus Storybook bible to remember the promises that God has made to his people through history, and see them unfold and come true in the Lord Jesus. It is also BEAUTIFUL... but slightly pricey. Why not give it a go? You could use it every year - make it a tradition for your family to remember Jesus together - his birth, his life, his death, and his return. Or as the writer of the cheerfully given blog puts it, you can remember together that "Jesus is the serpent-crusher, the true and better Moses, the Son who was sacrificed and not spared, the forever King. Jesus said that all scripture testifies about him, and each day as you hang a Jesse tree and read the corresponding story, you and your children can marvel at how Jesus fulfils all of these stories." It's also good to know that 10% of the profits from each set of Jesse Tree advent ornaments go to supporting the work of Bible translation and distribution! Have a look here for more information: https://cheerfullygiven.com/shop/jesse-tree
3. For slightly older families (those with children aged 7+) there is a great book of family devotions by Marty Machowski called "Prepare him Room". It's available on Amazon, or I'm sure our bookstall could get it for you if you asked nicely! I have a copy in the youth office if you want to have a look before you buy it. Machowski writes short and simple devotions to help your family to feed on God's word together. If that's something you normally struggle to do, then Advent is the perfect excuse to give it another go. Go on... be brave!
4. If, like me, you've already bought your advent calendar... or if you feel a little too grown up for one. Why not take a little time each day, this advent, to think about, to ponder on, the day of Christ's return. However you do it, work out ways to help you, and those around you, to remember the words of Jesus in Revelation 22:20, when he says, “Surely I am coming soon.” And to pray, along with the Apostle John, "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!"
Olly Elliott, Associate Minister (Youth and Families), 17/11/17
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