For the fourth Sunday in Advent we begun with the tree looking a bit different to when we’d left it the previous week. There were some red decorations hanging on the tree, bearing the words ‘Jesus’, ‘Joy’ and ‘Praise’. I’d found them at one of the Christmas markets. It was about the “almost Christmas” nature of our Sunday, but also caused us to think about the things about our world and our own lives that can lead us feeling ‘blue’ at Christmas. As these were named, we added some blue baubles to the tree.
We then thought about God’s love, and the words in Romans 8 that remind us that none of these things can separate us from the love of Christ Jesus. We had given everyone a small paper heart with their bulletin (with some double-sided tape on the back), and invited people to name parts of their lives, people or places that needed that connection with God’s love. Some wrote about things they were blue about, others added their heart without words…
We taped the hearts onto a long ribbon, and wrapped our tree round with a garland of God’s love!
We offered the children large sheets of paper so that they could continue to draw during the more adult-oriented part of the sermon. We have foam mats on the floor on one side of the worship space, but the children did not want to move! One five-year-old drew a picture of her friend who used to live in Beijing, but is in another country now. Expat life brings lots of griefs about distance and loss, even to our youngest members.
Preparing for Christmas Eve worship, I realised how much the children have taught me this Advent. Watching them lie by the tree, drawing and writing, close to the place where we have week-by-week articulated something of a Kingdom vision, being sure of their welcome in that space, confident of God’s interest in their lives and concerns… They have been very good Advent preachers!