24 December 2023
Bible readings for today
Liturgical colour: VIOLET
God of all hope and joy,
open our hearts in welcome,
that your Son Jesus Christ at his coming
may find in us a dwelling prepared for himself;
through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.
E te Atua o te tūmanako, o te koa,
tūwheratia ō mātou ngākau kia pōwhiritia i a koe,
kia kite ai tāu Tama a Īhu Karaiti i tōna haerenga mai
i tētahi wāhi kua whakaritea mai mōna i roto i a mātou;
ko taua Īhu Karaiti rā anō hoki tō mātou Ariki,
4th Sunday of Advent: Love
It's Christmas Eve!
Unusually this year, the fourth Sunday of Advent falls on Christmas Eve. We've kept suggestions here quite light, but feel free to go and explore our Christmas ideas over on www.strandz.org.nz or our previous pages.
Lighting the Candle of Love
Today is the 4th week of Advent and we light the candle of love.
What you need:
This is a good opportunity to talk about love.
Some helpful conversation starters (note- as you all talk and share together, gently lead the conversation into specifics- Statements like I love my friends are helpful. Statements like I love Sophie and Elyssa can be more helpful because they can allow you to explore the specifics of relationships)
Aroha - Love
You can print out this colouring sheet from Flame Creative
Strandz: A colouring in resource from Christmas on the Move -- a colouring in sheet with the themes of the 4 Sundays of Advent, as well as 4 beautiful Kiwi Advent illustrations
The BibleProject have a series of animations that unpack the themes of Advent. They are best suited for teenagers and adults, and help give some background context and explanation about the topic. You can watch one about Love here
Mary and Elizabeth (Luke 1:26-38)
Today's story looks at how God encouraged Mary through the words of her cousin, Elizabeth
Christmas on the Move
All resources from Christmas on the Move, a Strandz advent resource, can be found here
Today is the day for Mary and Joseph to arrive at the stable, ready for the arrival of the baby on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. This can be linked to the Gospel reading.
Resources created by Elizabeth Waldron Anstice for Intergen Australia. "As we seek God in this time and place, it will be through complicated living beings, with many roles and names, that the kingdom is revealed." See here
Advent 4 is also Christmas Eve this year, and we launch into the wonderful story of Gabriel's visit to Mary. It's such a familiar story to most of us, even if only through nativity plays! Are there still fresh challenges, good news, and "so whats?" for us today? Michael Godfrey is in a different role this week, and he, Esther Clarke-Prebble, Lisa Emerson and Bishop Steve Benford, together bring out treasures old and new for our Christmas pondering!
Make Christmas cards that can be sent to homebound parishioners who will likely receive home communion in the Christmas season. Children, in particular, might like to make cards for members of their own families, or people they sit with or know at church.
You could include the greeting from today’s Epistle: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”. Print this in advance on address labels, or on paper that can be glued inside the card so that younger children who might struggle with writing can also include the greeting.
A big surprise
The story of Mary visiting Elizabeth
Say something like: What a surprise! First Mary is visited by an Angel- definitely not an everyday occurrence! And she’s told that she’s going to have a baby and that the baby is going to be God’s son. Whew! That would be a bit of a shock for anyone. God is full of surprises and in this story- the surprise doesn’t end there.
After Mary is visited by an angel, she went to visit her older cousin, Elizabeth. Elizabeth had never had any children. Mary loved Elizabeth and wanted to see her and tell her what was happening-- that she was pregnant with God's son. When Mary reaches Elizabeth' house, we find out another surprising something. Elizabeth was also pregnant. Not only that, but as soon as Elizabeth saw Mary, Elizabeth’s baby jumped around inside her. He started wiggling, kicking, moving around and getting really excited. Before Mary said anything at all, Elizabeth knew something amazing. She knew that Mary was pregnant and that Mary’s baby was going to be the Lord.
I think that’s a story full of surprises. So full, that we know that God must have been up to something really, really big. This was no ordinary meeting, and God hadn’t planned a bit of ordinary stuff. Oh no! He had something big, no huge planned. God’s plan was to come and be with us in the world, to love us and save us. And for God to work it all out this way, he must really want to be with us. And he does. He wants to be with us just now, just the way we are. We don’t need to improve ourselves for him; get our hair cut, get good grades, lose weight or get a job. He wants to be with us right now. And to do that, God’s going to send a baby to earth. I always thought that if someone were going to change the world, that person should be strong and smart, and big and tough powerful and maybe a bit bossy. But God’s big surprising plan was very different. His big thing is a very little baby and that baby is coming very very soon!