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The whole season of Christmas, from Advent to Epiphany, is a wonderful opportunity for the church to celebrate the birth of Jesus as ‘God with us’.
Instead of feeling we are battling against the tide and shutting ourselves off from all the festivities, which are increasingly secular, Susan Sayers encourages us to embrace them and fill them with real meaning. In her first-class book of treasures for worship in church, outside and at home, for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, the author shows how this can be possible.
The resources help make Advent more spacious and reflective, rather than being caught up in the frantic pre-Christmas secular stress. They also show how we can Christianise many of the pre- and post-Christmas activities, so that these secular events are not extras to be squashed into an already hopelessly busy schedule, but become an integral part of our Christian preparation and reflection.
Glossy B5 size booklet with lots of ideas for worship during Advent, Christmas and Epiphany in different contexts.
All-Age resource, whole church. Beginning, Growing.
Good. This resource is colourful and glossy with chapters full of ideas to celebrate Christian Christmas festivities. The layout is simple with different formats of text and no images. The content covers worship ideas from the beginning of Advent, through Christmas to the season of Epiphany.
The introduction explains that this resource is to support churches in engaging with different types of worship across the festive Christmas season in an increasingly secular culture. Each activity aims to engage with the congregation and community about the true story of Christmas and the importance of Jesus Christ.
The leader’s notes are very accessible. There are brief context and introductory notes for each exercise before the leader is then guided what to say, do and set up for each session. The notes are clearly written with simple language and concise instructions, but for the service layouts there is autonomy for the leader to choose their own readings, songs and overall layouts.
Depending on which activity is being used, there can be different leaders for this resource. For example, some ideas for worship in church may involve a more formal and liturgical approach which is best led by a church leader. There are also ideas for how to worship in the community (for example singing carols) and how to worship at home in everyday life. Depending on what is most suited for the context, each church can decide who is best suited for each activity.
N/A - there are no direct participant resources available with this series.
N/A - no website links or physical media for this resource.
Preparation depends on the type of activity for the week. Each week is split in to three sub sections: worship in church, worship outside and worship at home. For some sessions, quite a bit of preparation is needed as they can range from church services to whole days. Leaders would need to choose the readings, songs, talk content and prepare the church (a wreath, candles and Christmas tree may need to be set up for example).
It is worth noting that the resource does not give full service layouts, but ideas to be incorporated in to all-age worship in church. Likewise, some of the worship outside sessions can involve a significant amount of preparation time, where others may not. For example, one fairly simple worship outside idea involves a prayer walk under the stars. Whatever the case, leaders need to ensure they are familiar with the activities so they can prepare appropriately for their session.
N/A - there is no direct website support.
Interaction is primarily between the leader and the congregation for most of the content. Interaction between participants is more noted during the worship outside ideas, where different people come together to participate in a more dynamic way of worship, for example, organising a carol singing group.
Within each week’s ideas in the home, church and outside, learning is encouraged in a range of ways. From hearing a reading from the Bible through to going to the pub, carol singing and watching role plays, there are a range of dynamic approaches to teaching about the importance of Christmas.
This resource runs from the first week of Advent through to the season of Epiphany (officially 2nd February). There are four Advent week ideas, as well as ideas for Christmas Eve, Christmas day and the rest of the Christmas season. Each week includes ideas for worship in church, outside and at home, with the church sessions including liturgy to assist. The leader must note that church worship does not mean a full layout is provided for a church service, but ideas are given to aid worship aspects of the season.
The different context ideas mean this resource is adaptable for different churches and communities and can also be used by individuals for worship at home. It can also be used as an evangelical tool, especially the ideas for worshipping outside. There are varying amounts of preparation depending on what the leaders choose to incorporate or leave out, but the essential factor to be aware of with this resource is that its contents for church worship can complement a fuller service plan, while the worship ideas for outside and at home can be conducted as stand-alone and complete activities.
Application is primarily through worship at home ideas which encourage people to respond to the Christmas season by doing something good or remembering Jesus at home.
There are suggested readings for most worship in church and worship outside sessions.
Biblical material is presented as suggested readings to accompany the activities and different services from Advent to the Epiphany. They can be used as part of a complete church service and complement activities, hymns and themes around the Christmas story.
For each occasion over the Christmas season, the book explains the importance and relevance of each day which the leader can then relay in sessions with participants. The congregation are encouraged to apply what they learn in their own homes over the Christmas time, whether that is to think more about the true Christmas story and worry less about consumerism, or to make a nativity scene at home which reminds them daily about what Jesus’ birth means for us.
The author, Susan Sayers, was ordained as a priest within the Anglican church. Within this resource, there are many liturgical ideas, including penitence, confession and intercession.
Whole life discipleship is indirectly encouraged by two approaches; the first is the fact that the different contexts for the sessions inspire people to be worshipful in different places, and the second is by speaking in depth about the significance of Jesus’ birth and the following days.
Participants primarily grow in faith by learning about the birth of Jesus and the significance of the story behind how it came about. They also learn different ways we can respond to Jesus, through the liturgy included.
There is quite a bit of narrative throughout for the leader, to give them context and ideas about how to share this with the congregation. In some cases, even seasoned Christians may not be aware of the significance either side of Jesus’ birth; the resource gives the leader the information to share in the way they feel is most appropriate.
The resource acknowledges that Christmas is not a good time for everyone and that there may be times of global and local crisis. There are different readings and prayers to be chosen depending on what is going on in the world, for the church worship sessions.
The nature of the Christmas season provides an opportunity when people are more open to hearing about Jesus and the Christmas story. The activities included allow this story to be easily accessible, and also includes some information for the leader to share with Christians to help them tell others.
Community involvement is primarily encouraged in the sessions based on worship outside. These activities involve imaginative worship ideas which can be done in the community and require very little resource to complete. They are open to all and present church in a relatable and modern way. They do include some liturgy which can be used or not depending on the participants.
The resource briefly acknowledges Christmas may be a time of unrest for many and addresses this in prayer and readings in some sessions.
Not a focus of this resource.
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