Journey to Joy - Advent and Christmas Reflections

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17 November, 2022

Advent is almost here and we as a church will be joining churches across Queensland on a Journey to Joy.

A suite of resources has been created by a collaborative team from across the Qld Synod of the Uniting Church to help congregations, communities, and families celebrate Advent together intergenerationally. We will be using the worship resources for the four Sundays of Advent and Christmas Day.

There are also five weeks of materials that have been designed for Families, singles, couples, and groups in congregations and the community which contain discussion questions on the weekly themes, Reflections on Characters of the nativity, challenges, and links to additional resources, including videos and songs, to help young and old to engage and go further in their discipleship journey this advent.

Printed materials will be available this and next week for you to collect and start to use in your homes and small groups. Materials are also available online at https://emmanueluca.org.au/dig-in-at-home.

We would love for you to use and share these with family and friends, and people you are relationship with, in the community as we all Journey to Joy this Christmas.

More From 'Dig in at Home'

The Story Chapter 10 - Week Beginning 7 November

Chapter 10: Standing Tall, Falling Hard

Timeless Truth: God uses willing hearts to serve him.

Bible Basis: 1 Samuel 1, 3, 8-10:9

Key Verse: “The Lord has filled my heart with joy. He has made me strong” (1 Samuel 2:1).

Resource: The Story: Teen Edition, The Story for Kids/Children/Little Ones: Chapter 10

Parent Tips:

Use the Table Talk questions to start a discussion around the dinner table during the week. The Living Faith activity will help your family learn to listen for God. The Extra Mile has your family watch a video about God’s lost ark and understand that the Bible isn’t filled with stories—it’s filled with truth.

Get the Point:

Preschool: God answered Hannah's prayer. God hears me pray, too.

Elementary: God answered Hannah's prayer. God hears me pray, too.

Middle School: With God on the throne of your life, you’ll be able to avoid a multitude of sin and live for Him.

High School: Knowing about God leads to failure. Knowing God helps you stand tall.

Table Talk

Preschool/Elementary

- Hannah made a very big promise to God by telling him and she would give her first son to serve him. When Samuel was born, do you think it was hard for Hannah to hand over her son to Eli at the temple?

- Have you ever made a promise so big that you didn’t want to keep it? What did you do?

- How did God reward Hannah? (She had three more sons and two daughters. Plus, she got to see Samuel grow up to mightily serve the Lord.)

- Later in chapter 10, it says the people of Israel wanted a king, even though God was supposed to be their king. God let Samuel anoint Saul to be king. If you were king, what decisions would you make? Would you order dessert to be eaten before dinner? Would you outlaw tests at school?

Middle/High School

- Eli’s sons Hophni and Phinehas grew up in the temple, but didn’t honor God. They took for themselves what was God’s. Is there an area of your life that you’re holding onto, instead of giving it to God?

- Hophni and Phinehas knew a lot about God, but didn’t truly know, love and fear him. How can you show God that you know, love and fear him?

- What do you think it means in 1 Samuel 10:9 when it says, “God changed Saul’s heart?” How has God changed your heart?

- Saul was 30 years old when he became king of Israel. Is that too young to be king? Do you think his age played a part in Saul sinning against God?

Living Faith

God calling Samuel in the middle of the night is one of the most well-known stories in the Bible. When Eli finally figures out that it’s the Lord speaking to Samuel, he tells Samuel to say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:9). What great advice! The Lord wants us to be ready and eager to hear him anytime—day or night.

Construct an old-school “telephone” by using plastic or paper cups, string and tape. Kite string or yarn works well. Once you gather the needed materials, poke a small hole in the bottom of each cup with a pencil. Thread the string through each hole, tie a large knot and then tape the knot on the bottom of the inside of the cups. When you pull the string tight, you’ll be able to hear each other when one person speaks softly into the cup and another person listens with the cup to his ear. See if you can say special messages to each other around the corner of a wall or down the stairs. Put the string under furniture or through the banister and see if it works. How long can you make the string and still communicate with each other?

When you’re done experimenting, ask:

- What was the hardest part of communicating using the old-fashioned telephone?

- God doesn’t speak to us through cups (although he could). What ways does God speak to us today? (Through the Bible; through godly advice from parents or pastors; through our prayers; through circumstances.)

- Because of the way that God communicates with us today, does it make reading the Bible and going to church more important? How can you make these two activities more of a priority in your life?

- What do you think you’d do if you heard a voice in the night calling your name?

- What do you think God wants you to do for him?

Extra Mile

In this part of The Story, the Philistines defeat Israel in battle, kill 30,000 soldiers (including Eli’s sons Hophni and Phinehas) and capture the Ark of God (1 Samuel 4:10-11). Although King David brought the Ark back to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6), it was eventually lost. Movies, including Raiders of the Lost Ark, have been made regarding the quest to find God’s lost ark. To see what the ark may have looked like, go to youtube.com and look up “Ark of the Covenant,” and watch the video by Howard Conder that is 2:01 long. For older children, the 5:46 long video on youtube.com called “Ark of the Covenant -- Lost or Hidden Away” discusses where the Ark is now. Discuss as a family what you learn. Does this video give you more faith that what the Bible says is real?

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The Story Chapter 9 - Week Beginning 31 October

Chapter 9: The Faith of a Foreign Woman

Timeless Truth: God rewards unselfish love.

Bible Basis: Ruth 1-4:17

Key Verse: “May the Lord reward you for what you have done. May the God of Israel bless you richly” (Ruth 2:12).

Resource: The Story: Teen Edition, The Story for Kids/Children/Little Ones: Chapter 9

Parent Tips:

Use the Table Talk questions to start a discussion around the dinner table during the week. The Living Faith activity is designed to show your family the benefits of being kind, even when nobody knows about it. The Extra Mile will get your family involved in the life of a child who’s having a difficult time.

Get the Point:

Preschool: Boaz and Ruth were kind to others. I please God when I am kind.

Elementary: Boaz and Ruth are kind to others. I please God when I am kind.

Middle School: By loving God first, you can better love your family.

High School: God calls us to go beyond ourselves to serve other people, even when it appears that it won’t profit us.

Table Talk

Preschool/Elementary

- When Naomi’s husband and sons died, why did she want to move to Bethlehem? (That’s where she was from. She had family there and had heard the Lord was helping his people.)

- Did Naomi want Ruth and Orpah to come with her? (No, she encouraged them to go back to their parents’ homes and marry different men.)

- Why did Ruth stay? (She loved Naomi and wanted to serve her and her God.)

- How did God bless Ruth’s actions? (He provided food for her and Naomi. He allowed her to marry Boaz.)

- How does God bless us when we do nice things for people?

Middle/High School

- Boaz and Ruth’s relationship teaches a lot about dating and the characteristics of a future spouse. What first attracted Boaz to Ruth? (She was hard-working. He had heard about the kindness she showed Naomi.)

- What attracted Ruth to Boaz? Was it his awesome biceps? (No. He offered her protection by having her glean in his field. He provided for her.)

- As parents, tell your children what first attracted you to your spouse. Ask them what characteristics are most important to them in a future mate.

- How does Boaz marrying and redeeming Ruth mirror what Jesus did for us?

Living Faith

Have a kindness competition. Depending on the ages of your children, you may have to make teams of two. If every family member is old enough, make it an individual competition. The idea behind this game is to show kindness to each other without expecting anything in return. Ruth showed great love and kindness toward Naomi, even though she couldn’t give her anything in return. In a similar way, Boaz showed amazing kindness toward Ruth. God blessed both Ruth and Boaz for their actions.

Encourage your family to show kindness to each other in tangible ways. Maybe it’s a kind word or a back rub. Maybe it’s something done in secret. You can tape special notes to the mirror in your kids’ bathroom. Your daughter can organize the garage. Your son could offer to baby-sit for free or drive a younger sibling somewhere without complaining. A child could clean up the family room or vacuum without being asked. A husband could buy flowers for his wife. The ideas are endless. At the end of a week, reconvene as a family and talk about what meant the most. Discuss what it was like being the giver and what it was like being on the receiving end of the kindness.

- Did being kind to each other change any family dynamics?

- What was the best part?

- How can kindness and unconditional love be shown all the time?

- How does intentionally showing kindness improve family relationships?

- Read Ephesians 4:32. What does it teach about kindness and how we should treat each other?

Extra Mile

Get together as a family and look at the lives of your neighbors and your children’s friends. Chances are you know another family that’s going through a difficult time, whether it’s divorce, serious illness, job layoff or death. If you can’t think of anybody who’s struggling, call your church and ask for the name of a child who needs to feel loved and encouraged. Once you find a child who’s going through a hard time, come up with a plan to show him love and acceptance—just like Boaz showed Ruth love and acceptance. Invite this child over for dinner. Offer to pick him or her up and pay for him to join a sports team or club with your child. Bring her to the amusement park with your family. Make him a consistent part of your family during a difficult time in his life. Be Jesus with skin on for this child. Boaz changed Ruth’s life forever, and your family can do the same thing!

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The Story Chapter 8 - Week Beginning 24 October

Chapter 8: A Few Good Men . . . and Women

Timeless Truth: Spiritual compromise can be overcome by turning back to God.

Bible Basis: Judges 2:7-8, 4 and 16

Key Verse: [Samson] said, “LORD and King, show me that you still have concern for me. God, please make me strong just one more time” (Judges 16:28)

Resource: The Story: Teen Edition, The Story for Kids/Children/Little Ones: Chapter 8

Parent Tips:

Use the Table Talk questions to start a discussion around the dinner table during the week. The Living Faith activity is designed to help your family understand how following God’s commands keep us safe. The Extra Mile will get your family to laugh as you discuss the importance of discipline.

Get the Point:

Preschool: God helps those who turn to him. I can depend on God.

Elementary: God helps those who turn to him. I can depend on God.

Middle/High School: Just like the Israelites, God calls us to be set apart. Live that way.

Table Talk

Preschool/Elementary

- Why did God have to raise up judges such as Deborah and Samson? (Because the Israelites weren’t following God.)

- How does this show God’s love? (God gave Israel a second chance—actually lots of chances—to come back and follow Him. He didn’t give up on the Israelites.)

- How does God show His love to us today? (By sending His Son to die for our sins; by forgiving the bad things we do and allowing us to have a relationship with Him.)

- God gave Samson great strength. What are some gifts God has given you?

- How can you use these gifts to help others follow God?

Middle/High School

- • When God allowed the Midianites to rule over His people and treat them badly, he raised up Gideon to get the Israelites back on track (Judges 6-8). What kind of man was Gideon? (He was the least important person in his weak family.)

- Gideon wasn’t popular, strong or a natural leader—he didn’t even trust God at first and made God prove himself. What does this tell you about God?

- Gideon raised an army of 32,000 men, but only 300 went to attack the Midianites. Why?

- How would you like to be more like Gideon? Does he have any character traits that you wouldn’t want to emulate?

Living Faith

Break your family into two teams. Gather masking tape, a package of 100 straws and several eggs. Work in teams to create a casing that will protect an egg when it’s dropped. Each team can only use tape and straws. When you’ve finished your designs, go outside and see which egg protector works best. You may need to get a ladder or chair to stand on as the eggs are dropped on a hard surface. The losing team has to clean up the mess.

Explain that the Israelites followed God as long as Joshua and the elders lived (Judges 2:7). God’s people were like the egg surrounded by the protective casing of God’s commands. The casing protects the egg. Without protection, the egg breaks. Chapter 8 of The Story shows what happened to the Israelites after they strayed from God’s commands by worshipping idols and following the world’s customs instead of God’s. God judged His people and they had to suffer the consequences of their actions.

Ask

- Could the egg survive the fall without the protection of the straw casing?

- How does God’s Word protect us?

- Why is it important to know and follow God’s commands?

- What happens to us when we decide to get outside the protection of God’s commands? (We sin and have to suffer the consequences.

Extra Mile

Go to godtube.com and search for Bob Smiley’s video called “Spankings.” It’s only a minute and a half long. If you want to watch more of Bob’s comedy, look for a 14 minute and seven second video that talks about being a father and other issues. When you’re done watching the videos as a family, discuss these questions about discipline.

- How is God judging the Israelites like a parent disciplining a child?

- What was God’s purpose in the judges? (To bring His people back to Him, to stop them from sinning and to help them live a more abundant life.)

- Did God’s judgment seem harsh or loving? Was it both?

- Why did God’s children disobey so frequently? (They forgot what God had done. They followed the world’s practices, not God’s.)

- What can your family learn from this chapter of The Story?

- Write down one thing your family will do differently after studying the judges: __________________________________ .

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