It is a gift that we have this church to come to: a place to pray and to sing, a place to study and to serve, a place to drink pretty good coffee and a place to encounter the Living God. But usually we only spend an hour or two at the physical church—that’s an hour or two out of the 168 hours we have every week. Our hearts long to connect with God throughout our days, in all the places we find ourselves.
Advent—the four weeks leading up to Christmas—is a time for us to prepare our hearts and our lives for Christ’s coming. The first Sunday of Advent (this year, December 2) is the beginning of the Christian calendar, a time to start fresh. As we start our new year, I want to invite you to take on a new practice or two as a way to connect with God. Here are a few ideas:
In this season of way-too-early sunsets, why not bring some light into the world? Try praying with a candle–any type of candle you have lying around! You can light it as a prayer for a specific person, you can light it when you say a prayer before a meal, you can light it when you’re watching the news and the weight of the world feels like too much to hold. (If you don’t have any candles at home, we’ve got some at church to share—all you have to do is ask Lindsay!)
Throughout the month, usually on Wednesdays, our church Facebook page will share a post asking for prayer requests, and we’ll light candles for each person who asks—it’s a sweet way for us to minister to our whole community, especially those who don’t come through our church doors.
This idea came from a book called “Faithful Families” by Traci Smith, a book with dozens of ways for families to practice faith in their homes. Pick a time when you want to have a “gratitude café” with your household (whether that’s a bunch of folks or just you)—Saturday mornings or Sunday evenings are nice, but different times work for different people. Make a special beverage (coffee, hot cocoa, tea, or something else!) for each person, and spend about 15 minutes silently writing down things you’re grateful for. When the time is up, share with each other what you’re grateful for. Close with a brief prayer, something like: God, we are thankful for all of these blessings. Amen.
Practicing gratitude helps us see all that we have and reminds us that all our blessings come from God. It’s also been shown, time and time again, that regularly practicing gratitude makes us happier and even healthier.
Each day in Advent, Cheryl or I will prepare a brief reflection to guide us all in our praying. During Advent, we sing some beautiful songs full of rich poetry and deep meaning. Each day, we’ll focus on just one verse from a hymn—some well-known, and some that are less familiar. We’ll pair it with a scripture passage, and provide some questions to reflect on throughout the day. Our hope is that this will allow us all to put aside a few minutes each day to be quiet, to dwell with God, to reflect on the beautiful poetry we sing each week, and to consider questions about how we are seeking God and preparing for the birth of Jesus.
We’ll email the devotionals out each morning and post them on Facebook (email firstname.lastname@example.org if you want the daily emails)! If you can’t access the internet, we’re happy to print out the week’s reflections for you—just call the office and ask, or talk to Lindsay or Cheryl after worship.
With you in the Love of Christ and the wonder of this season, Lindsay