Advent 4. Sharing the Story - Sunday, 19 December 2021

READ Micah 5:2-5, Psalms 80:1-7 & Luke 1:39-55

This week we will focus on the ways that we share the stories of the things God has done. In the nativity story, the angels appeared and declared the Good News of Christ’s birth, and in the readings, Luke shares with us Mary’s song of declaration of the goodness of God, from generation to generation, he has lifted up the humble and filled the hungry with good things. Mary sings of the mercy and the help that God has extended to his people. This week, we are encouraged to think about the ways that the Good News of Jesus makes our lives better, and the ways that we declare that in our lives. As you read the passages, think about who are the humble, the hungry and the rich, and what it means to be sent away. Take your time to think out loud about ways that we can make the Good News relevant to our world right now – the ways that we see and name the good things God has done, but also the hard things that still exist.

REFLECT, TALK & DO

This is the fourth week of Advent – we’ve thought about anticipating, we thought about preparing, we looked at risky journeys, and this week, we are going to think about sharing the anticipation with others.

In the Bible passages today, we read about different ways that people shared their anticipation of what was coming: Mary sings this song, the Magnificat, declaring the good things that God has done and he’s doing in her life and in the lives of her people. Elizabeth has a similar journey of realising Good News that was growing. In these passages, we are reminded that the Good News that we share is not about laws and rules but it’s the Good News of Christ who became one of us. We are reminded that just like God shared Good News with us when he sent Jesus at Christmas time, we have the opportunity to share that Good News too. In the story of Jesus’ birth, the angels declared the Good News to the shepherds on the hillside.

We are going to spend some time thinking about the ways that we see, and then declare Good News in our lives. Think about:

  • Who are you thankful for?
  • What do you want to declare as Good News?
  • Who in your life needs to hear the Good News?
  • Who are the “humble” and the ones that “fear him”? Who are the “proud in their innermost thoughts”? who are “hungry” maybe not just for food? How can you share the good news with them? In words? In actions? Who can help you do it?

Spend some time thinking, talking, and praying about this. Write your thoughts and prayers on the stars or Mary or Angels and add them to the tree or take them home to remind you.

PRAY

Thank you, God, that we have heard the Good News. Help us to remember that it is Good News, but not just for us. Help to share it, and show it in our lives. Help us to be brave like Mary, and recognise and share how you are good in ours and others' lives. Amen.


Watery Advent 1. LOVE

Usually during Advent, we do an advent candle wreath, however this year we are doing a water wreath! Especially in the hot Australian Summer water is something that we anticipate, that we hope for. A cup of cool cup of water on a hot summer’s day, rain for our farmers and lawns, water to swim in, water for baptism! Water is a powerful symbol. 

So each week, just like we would with a candle wreath, we’re going to fill a new cup instead of lighting a new candle as we reflect on Hope, Love, Peace, and Joy. Each week we will be adding more to the Jesse tree and to remind us of life growing out of the stump.

1: As we pour the water for our Advent wreath, we remember our deep thirst for God’s love.

All: We long for your love, O God. [Pour water into fourth glass.]

2: A tsunami wave of love, overpowering, all-enveloping, overwhelming, sweeping all up before it and changing the landscape forever.

All: We long for your love, O God.

1: Love which has the patience to seep into us, one drop at a time over aeons, forming stalagmites of beauty in the darkest places.

All: We long for your love, O God.

2: Love which holds us with the silent ethereal mystery of mist on a mountain top.

All: We long for your love, O God.

1: I invite you to name aloud people and places which are in particular need of God’s love at this time e.g.: Victims of violence; People who feel unloved; orphans and wards of the state; Those in nursing homes and far away from loved ones; People who have lost loved ones this year; People living with broken relationships with their family; Child soldiers throughout the world.

1 & 2: Advent God, we worship you with love.

All: We long for your love, O God. Amen.



Materials adapted from: https://intergen.org.au/product/advent-series-something-is-coming/ & https://sa.uca.org.au/documents/intergen-docs/resources/Engage-Together-Advent-2020.pdf     


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Jesse Tree 21. Daniel - Saturday, 18 December 2021

READ Daniel 6

The conspirators came and found Daniel praying and seeking mercy before his God. Then they approached the king and said concerning the interdict, “O king! Did you not sign an interdict, that anyone who prays to anyone, divine or human, within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be thrown into a den of lions?” The king answered, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.”             (Daniel 6:12)

Then the king gave the command, and Daniel was brought and thrown into the den of lions. (Daniel 6:16)

Then, at break of day, the king got up and hurried to the den of lions. When he came near the den where Daniel was, he cried out anxiously to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you faithfully serve been able to deliver you from the lions?” Daniel then said to the king, “O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no wrong.”                    (Daniel 6:19-21)

REFLECT

Daniel was brave. The reason he was brave was because he trusted God. Daniel knew that God was powerful and would take care of him. Daniel wasn’t scared to pray to God, even though the king had made a rule that people could only pray to the king. Daniel wasn’t scared to go into the lions’ den, even though the lions were hungry and ready to eat him. Daniel knew that God would take care of him. And God did! God sent an angel to shut the lions’ mouths so they couldn’t bite Daniel.

In the Bible, angels are more than messengers, delivering God’s words like celestial mail carriers; they are understood to represent God. It’s as if God himself is with Daniel in that den. God himself was protecting Daniel! God—the Lion of Judah—showed the lions of Babylon that he was more powerful and that he would protect Daniel.

TALK

  • When has God helped you feel brave?
  • When have you felt God’s presence with you? What was that like?

PRAY

God, thank you for being powerful and protecting me. Living in your kingdom can put me at odds with the world around me, but even when I feel under attack, you are with me. Please help me trust you. Amen.

BLESS & DO

Add the next picture to your tree

Find something to do to bless people that work to protect you (Fire, Police, Security etc.)  



Materials adapted from: https://www.faithward.org/jesse-tree/, http://flamecreativekids.blogspot.com/2016/11/the-jesse-tree-printable-pictures.html                 

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Jesse Tree 20. Habakkuk - Friday, 17 December 2021

READ Habakkuk 1-3

I will stand at my watch post, and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint.                                            (Habakkuk 2:1)

For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.                                               (Habakkuk 2:3-4) 

REFLECT

Habakkuk the prophet has just finished telling God, “Hey! Everyone around here is horrible! They don’t care about anyone else. They’re hurting other people. Why don’t you do anything to stop them?” Things have gotten really bad. So, Habakkuk marches up to a tall tower and waits. Will God explain why it seems like he isn’t doing anything about all the awful people and the terrible things they’re doing? And God does answer Habakkuk! God says, “Oh, I’ve noticed. And I’m going to do something about it. I’m going to stop the evil people from doing terrible things. Everything that they’ve done to other people is going to happen to them.”

Habakkuk wonders when God will do all this. It already feels like it’s taking too long! So, God tells Habakkuk to be patient. God promises that he will make things right.

TALK

  • What things, big or little, are you waiting for?
  • Why is it hard to wait sometimes?
  • What helps you to be patient?

PRAY

God, waiting is hard! We want you to fix everything right now. Will you help us grow more patient? Will you help us trust that you will do what you’ve said you’ll do? Amen.

BLESS & DO

Add the next picture to your tree

Find something to do for someone else that will require patience on your behalf, and see it through. 



Materials adapted from: https://www.faithward.org/jesse-tree/, http://flamecreativekids.blogspot.com/2016/11/the-jesse-tree-printable-pictures.html                 

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Jesse Tree 19. Jonah - Thursday, 16 December 2021

READ: Jonah 1-4

The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put-on sackcloth.                                                                                     (Jonah 3:1-5)

REFLECT

Jonah was not a very good listener. Or maybe he could hear just fine, but he wasn’t so great at obeying. When God told him to go to Nineveh, he hopped on the first boat in the other direction! God loved the people of Nineveh and wanted them to know him, so he stirred up a big storm to get Jonah’s attention. Jonah asked the sailors to throw him off the ship to get the storm to stop, which they did. And then a giant fish came along and gulped him down. Jonah stayed in that fish’s belly for three days.

When the fish spat him back out, Jonah decided to obey God and go to Nineveh. He arrived in Nineveh, told the people God’s message, and they believed! Jonah wasn’t the only person to hang out in a dark, damp place for three days. That’s what Jesus did while he was in the tomb. Jesus was much more willing to obey than Jonah was, and Jesus’ obedience also meant that lots of people had the chance to trust God!

TALK

  • Why do you think Jonah was so reluctant to go to Nineveh to start with?
  • What changed his mind?
  • Why do you think the people of Nineveh believed God?

PRAY

God, help me to obey you so that other people can know you. Search my heart and point out the places where I haven’t been following you. I confess that I have fallen short. Help me, like Jonah and Jesus, to be obedient. To where or what are you calling me? I want to follow. Amen.

BLESS & DO

Add the next picture to your tree

Bless someone by telling them about God's love for them.



Materials adapted from: https://www.faithward.org/jesse-tree/, http://flamecreativekids.blogspot.com/2016/11/the-jesse-tree-printable-pictures.html                 

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Jesse Tree 18. Isaiah - Wednesday, 15 December 2021

READ: Isaiah 9

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shined.                                                                                                                          (Isaiah 9:2)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, prince of Peace.      (Isaiah 9:6)

REFLECT

Have you ever been in a place where it’s pitch black? If you’ve ever gone camping, maybe you know the feeling of not being able to see anything. You’re out in the bush at night, and you can’t see the moon or stars. You can’t see anything at all. Or maybe it’s just really dark in your bedroom at night. That can feel scary and confusing, can’t it? When you don’t know what’s around you, you might feel afraid and lonely and not want to move.

This is the kind of deep darkness the people of Israel walked in. Well, it wasn’t actually night-time all the time, but it had started to feel that way. They couldn’t see the person who was coming to save them. After a while, they started to think he might never come. They had no hope.

This chapter in Isaiah reminds the people of Israel of the light that is coming. The sun will come up in the morning! It won’t be night-time forever. The light that is coming is a person, and his name is Jesus. He is coming to save his people. When he is here, we don’t have to be scared or sad anymore. We can feel full of peace and joy.

Jesus is the light of the world. From now until Christmas, we are getting ready to have the night become day. Jesus is on his way!

TALK

  • How do you feel when it’s completely dark?
  • What about during the day, when it’s bright?

PRAY

God of light, I can’t wait for you to come again. I pray that you would shine into the darkest corners of our world and of my life, bringing hope and setting things right. Help me to shine your light also so that others can see and experience you. Amen.

BLESS & DO

Add the next picture to your tree.

Bless someone by giving them a candle or torch that says, Jesus is the light of the World.



Materials adapted from: https://www.faithward.org/jesse-tree/, http://flamecreativekids.blogspot.com/2016/11/the-jesse-tree-printable-pictures.html                 

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Jesse Tree 17. Esther - Tuesday, 14 December 2021

READ Esther 1 & 4

When they told Mordecai what Esther had said, Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” Then Esther said in reply to Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do. After that I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.”                                   (Esther 4: 13-16)

REFLECT

Esther had come to be queen in the most unlikely of ways, and now King Ahasuerus has agreed to order all the Jews to be killed. So, Queen Esther decided that she would try to talk him out of it. It might mean that she would be killed, too, since no one was allowed to talk to the king without being invited, but she was willing to die to save her people.

Does that sound familiar? Jesus was also willing to die to save his people. And he wasn’t just willing to die. He actually died, and his death brought us life. Jesus took the biggest risk of all, which frees us to take risks, too. Death isn’t so scary anymore when we remember that Jesus has already died and beat death.

Esther’s life belonged to God, so she was free to risk her life. By taking that risk, she brought life for her people. The risks we take might also bring life to other people!

TALK

  • What do you think made Esther so brave?
  • What hard or scary things have you seen others do?
  • What hard or scary thing could you do to help make other people’s lives better?

PRAY

Jesus Christ, thank you for making death less scary. Help me to be brave and listen to you and take risks so I can help other people for you. Amen.

BLESS & DO

Add the next picture to your tree

Do some random acts of Kindness today to show God's love to others. 


Materials adapted from: https://www.faithward.org/jesse-tree/, http://flamecreativekids.blogspot.com/2016/11/the-jesse-tree-printable-pictures.html                 

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Jesse Tree 16. Elijah - Monday, 13 December 2021

READ 1 Kings 18

At the time of the offering of the oblation, the prophet Elijah came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your bidding. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and even licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord indeed is God; the Lord indeed is God.”                                                                                                         (1 Kings 18:17-39)

REFLECT

God doesn’t often seem very popular. In the prophet Elijah’s time, there were a lot of people who trusted in pretend gods, while Elijah, trusted in the one true God. But just because God wasn’t popular doesn’t mean he wasn’t powerful. It didn’t matter how many people believed in the pretend gods, Baal and Asherah. Those pretend gods were exactly that: pretend. So of course, they couldn’t actually help anybody! No matter how hard people prayed to Baal and Asherah, nothing would ever happen. But as soon as Elijah prayed to God, God lit the whole altar on fire!

God is the only one who can really help us. God’s power doesn’t come from his popularity. God’s power comes from himself, from his deep love for other people. God showed his love in the biggest way when he came to earth as Jesus. And God showed his power in the biggest way when Jesus won the fight against evil and death.

TALK

  • Have you ever experienced God in a powerful way like Elijah did?
  • Do other people's opinions of God affect your ability to trust or love him?
  • Would it be easier for you to trust in God if you saw a big display of his power? Why?

PRAY

God, thank you for showing me your power and your love through Jesus. I know in my head that you alone are God, but I don’t always believe it in my heart. The gods of health and happiness are so seductive. Forgive me for putting my trust in them. Give me confidence in you and your power and help me to trust you always. Amen.

BLESS & DO

Add the next picture to your tree.

Share about God’s power with someone you meet today.



Materials adapted from: https://www.faithward.org/jesse-tree/, http://flamecreativekids.blogspot.com/2016/11/the-jesse-tree-printable-pictures.html                 

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Advent prayer and reflection

Like many of the key moments of the calendar, Advent has the potential to trip some big and complicated feelings – making space and acknowledging those feelings isn’t diminishing or detracting from the joy of the season of Advent, though. Making space for conflicting feelings and experiences is an opportunity for us to gather our whole community into the experience of faith. Advent recognises a sense of hope, in the

middle of difficult circumstances. It recognises things growing out of struggle. It recognises the Kingdom of God breaking in – and subverting the expectations of the people who were looking for the Saviour. When we make space for difficult feelings, and name them as real and legitimate, we also make space for the grace of God to come and meet us all in our feelings and struggles and hardships, and we make space for new things to grow out of that.


PRAY

As we enter this time of Advent, we acknowledge that there are those within our community who hold grief in their hearts. For some their grief is long lived, a companion, not welcome but familiar. For others their grief is new, bright, and loud. For some their grief is approaching at a speed they cannot predict but with an inevitability that has already taken its toll. Hope and pain are held together in the story of the birth of Christ.


(light the candle)


We light this candle and remember Sara and Abram, Hannah and Ephraim, Elizabeth and Zechariah who waited and grieved.

We light this candle and remember the stories that remain untold because that much-loved child has not arrived.

We light this candle and remember the families who loved a child whose life did not get lived and the families who held those they loved only briefly.

We light this candle and remember that families come in many different forms.


At Advent, we tell this story of the birth of a child, unexpected, and beloved. And we hold in our hearts the knowledge that in a few months at Easter, we grieve the loss of that life, and all the things that it means to us as believers. Joy and grief, together. This is the story of a family who did not fit their society expectations, a family who loved and grieved, just as many of us in this space are family who love and grieve together.


We light this candle and remember that stories of birth and family are often touched by grief and pain.

We light this candle to remember those who weep silent tears of the heart.

We light this candle and remember.

 

by Stacey Wilson from: https://intergen.org.au/product/advent-series-something-is-coming/

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Jesse Tree 12. Solomon - Sunday, 12 December 2021

READ 1 Kings 5-6

So I intend to build a house for the name of the Lord my God, as the Lord said to my father David, “Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your place, shall build the house for my name.”        (1 Kings 5:5)

Now the word of the Lord came to Solomon, “Concerning this house that you are building, if you will walk in my statutes, obey my ordinances, and keep all my commandments by walking in them, then I will establish my promise with you, which I made to your father David. I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake my people Israel.”                                                                                             (1 Kings 6:11-13)

REFLECT

The temple was really important. If you read all of 1 Kings 6, you’ll see how intricate and beautiful it was! It was very tall, and the whole thing was made of gorgeous wood, with pictures of trees and fruit and angels carved into it. The inside was covered in gold, so everything gleamed and sparkled.

It wasn’t just a building. It was the place where God and humans could meet. Before Solomon built the temple, God met his people in a big tent called a tabernacle. Inside the temple, there was a special room, called the Holy of Holies, where God lived. In that place, God and humans could be together. But God had even better plans. He didn’t want people to have to go into a tiny room to be with him in person. (And not just anyone—only certain people—could go into the room.) So, God decided that he would become the temple. Jesus called himself the temple. He is both God and human, the place where the two meet. We don’t have to go into a special room anymore. Now we can know God directly because of Jesus!

TALK

  • Why do you think God wants us to meet him anywhere, not just in a special room in the temple?
  • If we can meet God anywhere, what is so special about churches?
  • Where do you "meet God" or feel closest to Him? (In the garden? Your bed? By the ocean?)

PRAY

Jesus, thank you for being the temple, the place where I can meet God. By your Holy Spirit, I am connected with God, and can meet you anywhere, anytime. Help me to remember that and sense your presence with me today. Amen.

BLESS & DO

Add the next picture to your tree

Take someone to your favourite place to be with God and spend time together with Him. 



Materials adapted from: https://www.faithward.org/jesse-tree/, http://flamecreativekids.blogspot.com/2016/11/the-jesse-tree-printable-pictures.html                 

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