Advent Week 1 - Hope in Troubled Times

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4 December, 2023

All around the world people are preparing for Christmas. Some people are buying gifts, some are making special goodies, some are busy planning for guests, some are preparing their houses with special decorations. What are you, or your family, doing to prepare for Christmas this year?

This week we encourage you to take some time to acknowledge the things in your life that may make this year’s Christmas a difficult one. As you acknowledge, and work on the difficult things, we pray that you will see and feel glimmers of hope for what is to come.

Full resources are in the PDF attached, or available in print from Emmanuel Uniting Church

Take a moment to get comfortable, close your eyes and take some deep breaths. Imagine a garden that no-one has looked after for a very long time. What do you see? Maybe you see lots of weeds and dying plants all shrivelled up and brown… maybe there is rocky, dry soil where no plants can grow… or lots of tangled, overgrown plants. I wonder how you feel as you look at the garden. What would make this garden beautiful again?

Imagine yourself working in the garden… You start pulling out weeds – so many weeds… You remove rocks from the soil, add special nutrients, and dig, and dig, and dig… You water the shriveled plants and cut back the overgrown bushes. It’s hard, tiring work but you know it needs to happen so the garden can be restored.

Now, take some time to sit with God, in the garden of your soul. Together, take a good look around. Are there parts of your life that are like the neglected garden? Are there parts that are dry and withered? Areas that are overgrown or full of weeds? As you look around, what is God saying to you? With God, the Great Gardener, by your side, what areas could you start working on this Advent?

Know that God is a God of HOPE and that even amid the shriveled plants, weeds, and dry places, God is at work in you. As you are ready, slowly open your eyes and pay attention to the sights and sounds around you. This week, take some time to think and chat about, what you can do to bring life back to the garden of your soul. What glimmers of HOPE do you see or feel?

Isaiah 64: 1-9,

Psalm 80: 1-7, 17-19,

1 Corinthians 1: 3-9,

Mark 13: 24-37

Joel 1: 1-20,

Genesis 2: 4-25, 3: 1-24, Psalm 63

Dear God,

You are a God of HOPE.

Thanks for being with me when I’m hurting.

Thanks for being with me when everything is going wrong.

Thanks for being with me when I feel like a shrivelled-up plant.

Please water me with your love this Christmas and help me show love and hope to other people. Amen.

God is a gardener. In the beginning, God planted a garden in Eden and then placed human beings in it so they could reflect God’s image through gardening! (Gen 2:8-15) When we tend to the earth, we communicate God’s love and care to our fellow creatures.

“Advent” means coming, or arrival. The Advent season is an opportunity to pay attention to God’s gardening work in us. During Advent, we remember the ways God has cared for God’s people in the past, and we look forward to Christ’s return to earth when he will bring all Creation into order.

The prophet Isaiah longed for God’s presence to be restored on the earth. Isaiah asks for God to “come down” (Isa 64:1) and remembers the way that God had previously “come down” (Isa 64:3), causing the mountains to shake. The author probably intends for us to think of Exodus 19, when “Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended upon it in fire… while the whole mountain shook violently” before God spoke the Ten Commandments (Ex 20).

God’s “coming down” in this way was spectacular, loud, and scary – it was awe-inspiring, but also fearful. But perhaps even more than that, it was unexpected. Throughout history, God has done awesome deeds that human beings were not even waiting for! (Isa 64:3) Who would expect God to deliver them from slavery in Egypt, part the Red Sea, and provide dry land to walk upon? For centuries, God’s people waited for a Messiah, but when Jesus came, most people did not recognize that this was the one they’d been waiting for.

We do not know how God will work in us this Advent season, but we can be assured that God will act for those who wait (Isa 64.4). As we prepare the soil of our hearts, let us wait in expectation for the work of our Gardener.

The psalmist writes, “Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved” (Psalm 80.3). Just as fruit in a garden ripens in the light of the sun, let us turn our hearts toward the Son, that we might be saved.

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This week, you might like to take the time to read some books, watch some videos, or go to Church to learn more about Jesus. The wonderful thing about Jesus is that he invites everyone to follow him.

Full resources are in the PDF attached, or available in print from Emmanuel Uniting Church


Advent week 4 - Joy Now and Forever

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This week, we encourage you to take some time to think about your Christmas traditions. What Christmas traditions have been passed down to you? What new traditions have you started in recent years? Are there any new traditions that you’d like to start this year? As you feel surrounded by Christmas, we pray that you may experience joy – not just moments of joy but a long-lasting joy.

Full resources are in the PDF attached, or available in print from Emmanuel Uniting Church


Advent week 3 - Love in Action

There are so many wonderful activities and events that people can participate in during the Christmas season – light shows, parades, concerts, carols, face painting, dinners, and MORE. It’s easy to get caught up in doing things, that we sometimes forget to take care of ourselves, OR love others.

This week we encourage you to LOVE all that Christmas offers and think about how you can actively LOVE yourself and others, during this time.

Full resources are in the PDF attached, or available in print from Emmanuel Uniting Church