Wednesday, December 03, 2008


    Technically, Jacob's previous entry is "Advent Ideas for Youth Ministry#3" so here comes #4. Despite what the surrounding culture might be telling us these days, it is not Christmas just yet! The word “advent” is derived from the Latin word for “coming.” It is this time of the year that we contemplate what it means that Christ comes into the world, into our lives, again and again. It is a time to focus our attention on Christ in new ways and in new places. To enrich your experience of Advent ,we offer up the following ideas to help you and/or your youth wait in expectation for the peace, hope, light, and love of Christ which is coming into the world once more.

    Give Globally– Honor a loved one by giving a monetary gift in their name to a global missionary through your church or denomination. Or, instead of lots of bought gifts (that will be forgotten a year from now) consider giving to organizations such as Heifer International.

    Organize a Canned Food Drive – Instead of focusing your entire Advent on shopping and decorating, gather together and sponsor a canned food drive for the local food depository or pantry.

    Attend/Host a Taize Service – The Taize experience is quite unlike traditional worship services. The music is simple and meditative, the sacred space is filled with candlelight, and in place of spoken liturgy there is silence and time for rest and contemplation. Scripture read aloud opens one’s thoughts. The practice of individuals lighting candles through out the service as an act of prayer keeps the focus on the needs of God’s world in this season of expectation.

    Watch a Film – Take time to just sit an enjoy a holiday-themed film and REALLY watch it. See it as an act of meditation. I would recommend "It's a Wonderful Life," any version of "A Christmas Carol," "One Magic Christmas," or "The Bishop's Wife" (the Cary Grant version!).

    Visit Goodwill – While everyone else is fixated on what they are getting for Christmas, put yourself in the giving spirit with some winter cleaning. Go through your closets and clothes and gather up all the usable items that you no longer need or want. Then deliver them to your local Goodwill or resell-it shop where they can be of use to others at a low price.

    Notice God’s Creation – Give thanks for the created world around you and get into the fun of decorating by creating special treats for the animals that live outside. Hang seed balls on the branches of your trees for the birds. Make festive garlands of cranberries, popcorn, raisins and nuts on heavy string and drape them on trees and bushes for the squirrels.

    Visit a Shut-in – Drop-in on a home bound person or invite him or her on a field trip to look at outdoor light displays or to enjoy to a yuletide concert or play. Gather together to carol at a local retirement community or nursing home.

    Celebrate St. Nicholas Day – December 6 is St. Nicholas Day. The story of Santa pales in comparison to the way this priest, later to become Bishop of Myra, lived a life of radical devotion to the gospel of Jesus. Take some time to learn more about Nicholas and consider the example he offers for living a life of Christian simplicity, compassion, and charity. A good place to start is here.

    Practice Fasting – Commit to fasting as a spiritual practice for a certain number of meals just one day each week in Advent. Allow this time to help you focus on the needs of others around the world who lack adequate nutrition. Consider using some of your fasting time for volunteering at local soup kitchen or food depository. Determine how much money you saved by skipping meals and donate the funds to a local hunger relief charity.

    Take it Slow - The stores were rushing headlong into Christmas even before Halloween, but we can adopt a practice of slowing down during Advent. Ease into the Christmas carols, the decorating, the baking. Savor the season. Have an Advent party instead of a Christmas party and create an event centered on lots of candlelight, quiet music, simple foods, storytelling, and rest. Adopt a craft and spend time making gifts for loved ones. Have a board game night. Limit the gift list and the parties you think you just "have to attend." Enjoy some silence and rest during this season.