In this busy season, making time to check in with those in our households or with those whom we are in close relationship is vital. There are many ways to do this! Here is one: Gather your household around the Christmas tree or the Advent wreath (if you have one), or simply light a candle. Where do you see God doing something new in your life today? Where do pray for God’s work to be revealed?
This is not a “typical” getting ready for Christmas scripture text. No mention of Mary, John the Baptist, prophets, little town of Bethlehem, a baby or any of the images we associate with this time of year. So why is this part of our Advent reading? I tend to think it has something to do with verse six: “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication and thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
For children: What are you excited about today? What is it that you are having a hard time waiting for? Presents? Time off of school? Snow? What are you worried about today? Tests? Friends? Brother or sister? Mom or dad? Our Bible reading tells us not to worry about anything but to know that God hears our joys and our worries. Make some colorful strips of paper about two inches by about eight inches to create a paper chain. You can have 24 of them to count down to Christmas. But on each chain each day, write or draw something that you are excited about and something that you are worried about. This will be a daily prayer to God. Each day add a chain (families can create one large chain or each person can have their own prayer chain) and hang it on your Christmas tree as a reminder that Christmas is about God with us!
For youth/adults: Worry has been a primary human emotion for thousands of years. It seems that we are wired to worry about anything and everything. Some worry is good and healthy as it can keep us safe but often our worry goes overboard. Paul and the community at Philippi were not immune from worry. Paul is reminding them (and us!) that worry can crowd out our rejoicing and to offer all of daily lives, each part, to God. What is worrying you today? What brings you peace in the midst of worry? When you find yourself worrying about circumstances you can’t control, write down the worry, (paper, phone or computer) and say a prayer of thanksgiving that God is with us always.
“Let you gentleness be known to everyone.” God is gentle and loving with us and we want to show the world God’s gentleness. When someone cuts you off in traffic, in line at the store, or is rude to you, offer them a prayer of grace. When you do those same actions (as we all do!), offer yourself a prayer of grace as well! For younger children, have a small jar in a prominent place where each time someone (adults too) in the household is gentle, kind, and showing God’s love, a coin (pick which denomination works for you) can go in the jar. At the end of the month, as a household, chose a place to donate the coins. (You can have the children decorate the jar or container if you would like and keep this project going.)