13 December – Mary and Joseph set off

I love the very human picture of Joseph and Mary setting off to travel to Bethlehem. It’s easy to forget that they were (in every way except two) an ordinary young couple, probably both in their teens.

Can you think of any younger relatives or friends who are unsure of what the next year will bring? How can you reassure and encourage them?

 

The animations in this series are by Jon Birch, and used by permission, but please don’t download them or post them elsewhere, as the copyright doesn’t allow that. Find out more at http://proost.co.uk/altadvent.

12 December – The Emperor speaks

Big decisions of powerful people sometimes have consequences they don’t bother to think about for the more ordinary people who get caught up in them. When Caesar ordered a census of his empire, it led Mary and Joseph into a difficult journey, just as Mary’s baby was due to be born.

Joseph and Mary didn’t have much choice but to travel to Bethlehem, but they trusted that God’s plan wouldn’t be knocked off course.

Can you remember a time of being forced to do something you didn’t want to, and finding that God was present with you throughout the experience?

 

The animations in this series are by Jon Birch, and used by permission, but please don’t download them or post them elsewhere, as the copyright doesn’t allow that. Find out more at http://proost.co.uk/altadvent.

11 December – Light in the Darkness

The message of Christmas isn’t about escapism or pretending that everything’s ok when it isn’t. It’s not about tinsel and glitter as a distraction from the world’s problems. It’s about a light that shines in the darkness.

The prophet Isaiah had to face up to the darkness of the state his nation was in before he could see the light of God’s salvation. Into what darkness do you hope the light of Christ will shine this Christmas, whether for you or for our world?

The animations in this series are by Jon Birch, and used by permission, but please don’t download them or post them elsewhere, as the copyright doesn’t allow that. Find out more at http://proost.co.uk/altadvent.

10 December – Ancient words

Isaiah spoke to Ahaz over 700 years before the birth of Jesus, in a time of darkness for God’s people. He probably didn’t realise that his message from God would reach far beyond his own day, and be wonderfully fulfilled through Mary and Jesus.

When St Matthew was trying to understand the full meaning of Jesus’ birth, he remembered this prophecy, and saw that the story of Christmas was just one (very important) part of the long, long story of God’s faithful love for his people. In Jesus, the name ‘Emmanuel’ would not just be deeply symbolic; it would be a statement of fact.

Where is God already present ‘with’ you?

The animations in this series are by Jon Birch, and used by permission, but please don’t download them or post them elsewhere, as the copyright doesn’t allow that. Find out more at http://proost.co.uk/altadvent.

9 December – What’s in a name?

Names are powerful things – our own name will seem to leap out of a conversation at the far side of a busy room if it’s spoken, while we hear nothing of the words around it. In Ancient Israel, names were deeply important: more than a personal label, a name said something important about you, and names tended to run in families.

Elizabeth’s relatives wanted to name her son after his father, but God had other ideas.

What does your name mean? And what does it mean to you? Can you imagine – or even hear – God speaking your name?

 

The animations in this series are by Jon Birch, and used by permission, but please don’t download them or post them elsewhere, as the copyright doesn’t allow that. Find out more at http://proost.co.uk/altadvent.

8 December – Something old, something new…

Mary was overjoyed at what her cousin Elizabeth told her. After all, since Gabriel’s brief visit, she must have wondered sometimes what had happened and what was going to happen to her. Joseph’s support and trust in her was wonderful, but he hadn’t been there when Gabriel came.

So Elizabeth’s inspired words were a vital confirmation that God was indeed at work in her life, encouragement that she needed. So she rejoiced – and sang a song which is still said or sung every evening in the church’s traditional prayers, the Magnificat. It celebrates the faithfulness of God in past times, and his coming into the world to upend all the usual ideas of power and importance.

Looking back, not just on your own life but on what you know of history and the Bible, what gives you confidence in God’s work in your life today?

 

The animations in this series are by Jon Birch, and used by permission, but please don’t download them or post them elsewhere, as the copyright doesn’t allow that. Find out more at http://proost.co.uk/altadvent.

7 December – A joyful meeting

Perhaps to get away from the village gossips of Nazareth, Mary goes to stay with her older relative Elizabeth in the hill country – and Elizabeth’s unborn son, himself a miraculous gift from God, recognises the one whose way he will prepare. If there’s something that’s troubling you today, to whom can you go, who will understand what you’re going through? Why not visit them or phone them?

The animations in this series are by Jon Birch, and used by permission, but please don’t download them or post them elsewhere, as the copyright doesn’t allow that. Find out more at http://proost.co.uk/altadvent.