The Advent Experience

Over the past three weeks, I lead our youth and young adults on an experience of the advent and incarnation.  One week we set up Advent Stations that focussed around the theme of Waiting.  Each room we had was created to encounter the meaning of advent and provide sacred space to pause, be still and receive from God.  It was a great evening and the first of its kind for many of the participants at my new church.  Many reflected on how the change of pace was difficult and uncomfortable at first, but proved to be necessary.

I have discovered the unique paradox that while the French are known to spend quality time enjoying life, they (in particular the Parisians) suffer from the frenetic and often chaotic busyness of everyday life.  Students attend school from 8h to 18h (8am to 6pm) including Saturdays for some.  The amount of work far surpasses what my former New York (high-achiever) students were given.

This time of season it becomes all the more important to focus on what truly matters.

We also had a discussion on Consumerism and Christimas and contrasted the images and feelings associated with the many creches in the city with reactions to the environment surrounding the Galeries Lafayette (world-famous mall in Paris)

This video was a helpful reminder for us to center on the true meaning and significance of Christmas

Last week our young adults gathered for an evening of Carols and Stories.

The ideas was to read in community the Christmas Story, beginning from the Old Testament and concluding with Revelation.  In many ways the Christmas story is the apex of the Story of God and so we read, reflected and lit candles for each section read.

Inbetween the sections we sang familiar carols and hymns that seem appropriated for the theme.  Here is the structure and breakdown of the evening.

The Prophecies:

Isaiah 9: 1-7 Michah 5: 1-5 Isaiah 60: 1-6 Micah 4:1-8 Isaiah 40:1-11 Isaiah 42: 1-9

O Come O Come Emmanuel

O Little Town of Bethlehem

John the Baptist

Luke 1: 5-25 Luke 1: 57-80 Mark 1: 1-8

*the image above is Leonardo da vinci’s “annuniciation”

The Annunciations of Jesus

Luke 1: 26-38 Matthew 1:18-25 Luke 1: 39-56

Silent Night

O Holy Night

*the imago above is “the birth of the Christ child” located in the sanctuary at The American Church in Paris

The Nativity

Matthew 1: 18-25 Luke 2: 1-20 Matthew 2: 1-12

Angels We Have Heard on High

The First Noel

The Incarnation

John 1:1-18 Philippians 2: 1-12 Colossians 1: 15-20

O Come, All Ye Faithful

Joy to the World

The Return

Matthew 24: 36-44 Revelation 22: 12-21

Savior of the Nations,

Come Revelation Song

The Advent Candles

First Candle

Color: Purple
Theme: Hope
First Sunday in Advent

Second Candle

Color: Purple
Theme: Love
Second Sunday in Advent

Third Candle

Color: Purple or pink Theme: Joy
Third Sunday in Advent

Fourth Candle

Color: Purple
Theme: Peace
Fourth Sunday in Advent

*Fifth Candle

Color: White Theme: Christ Christmas Day

I also provided a handout to be used at home following the 4th Sunday of Advent.  It is condensed version of the Christmas story, meant to be read the seven days leading up to Christmas.

One-Week Meditation

Day 1     Isaiah 9:1-7; Isaiah 42:1-9

Isaiah 7:14;   Micah 5:2

Day 2 Luke 1

Day 3 Matt 1:18-25

Day 4 Luke 2:1-20

Day 5 Matt 2:1-12

Day 6 Luke 2:21-40

Day 7 John 1:1-14

These three weeks helped our group enter into the story personally and spiritually and connect with the significance of the Incarnation.  It also helped the group to appreciate even more why we can and should celebrate on Christmas Day.

The long-awaited Savior has come.  Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love are here and avaialbe.  This is good news (gospel) of great joy for all people…for unto us a Child is Born.

The week leading up to Christmas then intentionally is full of parties.  We went caroling down the Champs-Elysees this past weekend, all-church staff party last night, youth leaders party Wednesday night, and have a fun-filled Christmas party for the Youth on Sunday and Young Adults on Tuesdays consisting of a gift swap, karaoke caroling, cookie decorating contest, A Charlie Brown Christmas, a really wild version of the 12 days of Christmas, and so on.

*I must admit that it has been a pleasant transition to be in a city and culture that celebrates Christmas with great enthusiasm.  Unlike my home in NY, you are allowed to say Merry Christmas and display nativities in public.


4 thoughts on “The Advent Experience

    • Jamie. A great resource to use is a book by Dan Kimball and Lilly Lewin called Sacred Spaces. there are two types of stations i have used and modified to fit my group. one is called Advent Waiting and the other is Following the Star. In general what i do is theme each room and have something to read and reflect on and then something to do. (draw, create, journal, etc..) One station had a Christmas tree and art supplies and encouraged students to take time to create a symbol of Advent and place it on the tree. another station had a creche/nativity and asked them to place their name in the manger and tell Jesus what they need to receive. We had a large Advent wreath with the 4 candles and had reflective questions based upon Hope, Peace, Joy and Love and the response was to journal. One station simply had peaceful Christmas music, candles, and incense as a sacred space to receive. Another station encouraged participants to chose a few classic christmas carols (Silent Night, O Holy Night, Joy to the World) and actually read and meditate on the verses, which contain wonderful theology. I hope these examples are helpful and useful.

  1. Thanks a lot for your explanations here and in the other “advent” post. It’s been so helpful for the preparation of the “advent series” in my youth group! 🙂 Blessings from Spain

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