This week begins one of the most exciting and eagerly awaited times of the year, one that has the opportunity to be filled with wonder, and offers us so many chances to share this wonder with young people, and children in particular. Advent is the period of waiting before Christmas: a time for reflection and anticipation of the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day. If, like me, you’re keen to grasp the opportunities that this season offers to share our faith with young people, then read on to find out about some of the resources available on offer.
When talking to children about Advent, quite often the only thing they can tell you that might be related is the Advent calendar. When I was growing up there were two sorts- the chocolate variety, that was the best; and the Christian variety, that was very pretty and told you the Christmas story, but for a 7 year old, just wasn’t as exciting. The good news now, is that The Meaningful Chocolate company have started producing Real Advent Calendars. They are made with Fairtrade chocolate, which is the first bonus; but also include a Christmas story activity book. They cost £3.99 from large supermarkets, Traidcraft, Eden and Christian bookshops- if they don’t stock them then ask for them and maybe they will next year; or you can order them online as a bulk order of 18, along with Christmas crackers and chocolate angels, from https://meaningfulchocolate.co.uk/…/pr…/real-advent-calendar
For older children who may be interested in more of a challenge for Advent, Paula Gooder has a fantastic resource called Love Life Live Advent. It is available as a small booklet for children, youth and adults, as well as an online mailing list. Each day begins with a short reading, reflection and prayer, and then a simple action to help focus on the real meaning of Christmas. For example, make a place in your home where you will think about Advent, and make it special. Put your advent calendar, candle and/or wreath there. You can find more information here: http://www.liveadvent.net/
For families wanted to explore the Christmas season as family, you could try Murray McBride’s Walking with Jesus through Advent and Christmas. Using a series of mini-maps to follow in the footsteps of the journey taken by Mary and Joseph, this resource helps you to understand the different characters in the Christmas story throughout Advent. By Christmas you’ll have produced a long Advent frieze to hang on the wall to display your family’s journey.
If you’re looking to plan an event for families over the Christmas period, then Messy Church have a number of resources to give you ideas of what to do, including Messy Advent, Messy Christmas and Messy Nativity. You can contact Rhian Bridgens, who came to the Kindling a Flame Resource day, if you’d like some support with those. Get in touch if you would like her contact details.
I’ve noticed that in the last few years, with the arrival of the Great British Bake Off, lots of people seem to have caught the baking bug. If you’re one of the ones who did, or who already had the bug, then we have a great resource for you. Renita Boyle’s book ‘The Gingerbread Nativity’, gives you everything you need, apart from ingredients, to make a complete nativity set out of gingerbread. The resource can be used as part of a craft day, or over a period of weeks as part of a group. I’ve used it with a Toddler group, who had great fun decorating and eating gingerbread each week. We were then able to display our full set in church at Christmas- but we didn’t eat that one afterwards! You can find out more about it here:
The Eastmoor Resource Library in the Uplands also has some fantastic books available to borrow to give you some ideas to boost your children’s work this advent. One of my favourites, which I go to at some point every year, is Scripture Union’s Christmas Wrapped Up. It has all age worship ideas, crafts, games, plays, ideas for events and parties- everything you could need all in one nice shiny book!
Another book contained a mixture of creative ideas is Getting Ready for Christmas by Meg Harper, this time with ideas for assemblies, drama, and cross-curricular activities. Ideal for those with larger groups, or who work with schools.
For those of you who work with young children, and are maybe looking forward to singing some different songs as we approach Christmas, have a look at Nursery Rhyme Nativities. Using the tunes of nursery rhymes that children already know, but changing the words to reflect the season. As the title suggests, these could also be used for full plays as there are three contained for pre-school and early years learning.
For those responsible for leading all age worship, or the equally loved and dreaded Nativity, over the Advent and Christmas period, there are also specific resources designed for you. Together for a Season contains ideas for all-age services in church over Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. Drawing on the traditions of the wreath, the crib, and the Jesse Tree to connect church with groups, at home, and outreach. There are also standalone seasonal liturgies available.
Coming up with ideas that haven’t been used before can get more difficult each year, so you can also find in the Eastmoor library Susan Sayers’ Not Another Carol Service, and Scripture Union Oh no, not the nativity! Both books contain creative ideas for sketches to use whether in church, or assembly; as part of a wider service, or standalone at a Christmas workshop or similar event.
Here in St Thomas we’re running a week of Christmas Through the Keyhole, which is an interactive way of taking children through the Christmas story, by exploring the homes of the characters. It’s aimed at foundation stage children, and will be based between St Thomas Church Hall, Church, and Vicarage for the week of the 11th-14th December. If you work with any schools who would be interested in bringing a class along then they would be very welcome, there’s no charge, just point them in my direction. Or if you would be interested in volunteering in help by acting, setting up rooms, serving refreshments, or helping with crafts, or just to be an extra set of hands so that you can see how to run it in future years, then you would also be welcome.
To borrow any of the books listed above then please contact Zoe at the Eastmoor Resource Centre on 01792 281566, Mon-Fri, 9am-12. If you have any questions about anything in this article, or would like to talk about your Christmas youth and children’s work, then please contact Rachel on firstname.lastname@example.org, or 01792 652891.