Christmas - All Are Welcome

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24 December, 2023

Christmas has arrived! A time when people of all ages, all around the world stop to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

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

Take a moment to get comfortable, close your eyes, and take some deep breaths. Imagine a well-loved garden that you’ve been working on for a long time. As you look around, you see many different colours, textures, and shapes. As you breathe in the air, you smell different fragrances, some subtle, some strong. As you close your eyes, you become aware of the different sounds coming from the ground, the plants, and the air. This garden is alive and flourishing! It’s beautiful, wonderful, nurturing. How else would you describe it?

You’ve loved working in your garden, and it’s brought you great joy and peace. But now it’s time for you to share your garden with others. Who might you invite to visit? Who would you like to share this special garden with? Take some time to imagine people of all ages in your garden. What do they enjoy? What do they focus on?

Some people might enjoy smelling the flowers. Some might enjoy reading a book under the shade of a tree or running around on the soft grass. Some might enjoy picking herbs to take home for their dinner or finding all the little treasures hidden in the garden. How does it make you feel to see your garden full of life? How does it make you feel to see so many people enjoying your garden?

Now, take some time to sit with God in the garden of your soul. I wonder what God has been lovingly growing in your life. What’s in the beautiful garden of your soul that brings you joy? And what brings joy to others? As you think about all the wonderful things that God has grown in your life, also think about who you can share those gifts with. How can you share God’s love and blessings with others?

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 the wonderful things that God has grown in your life and how you might share those gifts with others.

Dear God,

Thank you for the gift of Jesus.

Help me to follow Jesus and be more like him everyday.

Please help me to actively love my family, friends and others, and to show God’s love and welcome to all.


When I was a little child (growing up in Finland) Christmas was always a time of cold and darkness. I remember looking through the double-glazed windows into the night – all I could see was snowflakes that covered the land like a shroud. And between the windows, my mother had put white cotton wool and on top of it she placed red hawthorn berries that looked like drops of blood.

But then I heard the Christmas song: The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned (Isa 9:2). And I thought: This song speaks about us Finns – We live in such a dark and cold country but when Christmas comes with all its lights – we no longer walk in darkness but have seen the great light – Jesus is born.

Little did I then understand that the darkness in the Book of Isaiah did not mean physical darkness but the darkness of the spirit. And I learned that the light was not the physical light of my childhood Christmases, but it was Jesus, the light of the world. The light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not overcome or understood it (John 1:5).

When my youngest son was quite small, he often asked us to leave the light on in his room when it was sleep time. And we both as parents felt it was unnecessary – until one night: - Our son was calling again to turn the lights on – to no avail. After a short period of silence, he called, in a loud voice: Bring Jesus in! We could not but turn the lights on! Jesus truly is the light of the world.

Now I am 85 and my youngest son looks after me. And Jesus is still with us. But I can never forget the red hawthorn berries on our windowsill. They remind me of Jesus’ suffering and death – we all know the story. But John adds something remarkable to Jesus’ Passion: Gardens.

John does not tell what grew in the gardens of Jesus’ suffering and resurrection; all we know is that it all happened in the garden – perhaps a reflection of the Garden of Eden. While the Garden of Eden was closed to humanity – anybody can walk with me into the Gardens of Jesus’ suffering and victory.

Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Kidron (John 18:1); where Jesus was crucified there was a garden and in this garden a new tomb (John 19:41); and in this garden, Mary of Magdala saw the risen Jesus and thought he was the gardener (John 20: 14, 15) and this led to the wonderful event when Jesus calls Mary by name and she recognizes that it is her risen Lord who called her by name (John 20:16). Some three hundred years later, Cyril of Jerusalem (350 C.E.) reported, “The remains of a garden that had previously existed were still visible”.[1]

So follow Jesus on this journey: from one Garden to another. Seek Him and you will find Him. He will call you by name – and you know who Jesus is. Everybody is Welcome.

[1] Brown, The Death of the Messiah, II, 1269-1270.

More From 'Dig in at Home'

Advent week 4 - Joy Now and Forever

Christmas is getting closer! Everywhere we go we see Christmas. We hear Christmas. We smell Christmas. We might even feel Christmas. What have you been noticing? What brings you joy?

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


Advent week 2 - Peace in The Preparation

Christmas can be a very busy time – there are presents to buy, activities to go to, people to visit, food to make, decorations to put up, and MORE. It’s easy to get caught up in all the Christmas hype.

This week we encourage you to take time to plan and prepare for the Christmas that you want for you and your family. In the planning and preparation we pray that you feel a sense of peace.

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