Christmas this year is going to be different. COVID precautions are going to shut down a lot of our traditions and celebrations. In response, Old First has worked hard to come up with new ways to celebrate the season. They are explained in the blog post below, and we hope you follow some of them, and even more that you will enjoy them.
Every family in the church should have received a hand-decorated Candle Holder and Advent Candles. (If someone has not, please let us know!)
- Your Advent Candle Holder was made “especially for you” (to borrow Clark’s phrase) by someone in the church community. Flip it over and see who made it for you.
- Think of a way to let that person know you have the Candle Holder they made for you. You could call, write a note or email. Or just say something to them in church.
- We have included the 5 candles you need. 3 purple, 1 pink and 1 white.
- Some of the Candle Holders’ candle holes are “tight;” you might need to shave the bottom of your candle a bit to fit it in.
- The candles are easy to place. White in the middle is the Christ candle and won’t be lit until Christmas Eve. 3 purple and 1 pink in the four outside holes. Where exactly you place them doesn’t matter, but if it helps, we will light two purple, then the pink and finally the 3rd purple candle.
Advent Candle Holders for Sunday Mornings
- The Candle Holders are, at the least, so everyone can participate in the lighting of the Advent candles each Sunday morning of Advent. Included are the candles you need. There will be an Advent Candle Liturgy at the beginning of service every week. There will be a video of a church family lighting the candles in the Sanctuary, and then everyone will light them at home too.
Advent Home Daily Devotions are a way to add to your preparation for Christmas:
- You could put your Advent Candle Holder on your dinner table, and light the candles each night.
- For the 1st week (Nov. 29 – Dec. 5), we light the first purple candle, saying “We light the first candle for the prophets who had a vision of Thy Light to come.”
- For the 2nd week (Dec. 6 – 12), we light the first purple candle using the same words, and then light the second purple candle, saying “We light the second candle for John the Baptist, who was not the Light, but who came to bear witness to the Light.
- For the 3rd week (Dec. 13 – 19), we light the first and second purple candles using the same words, and then light the pink candle, saying “We light the third candle for Mary who so graciously bore the child.”
- For the 4th week (December 20 – 24), we light the first and second purple candles, and the pink candle, and then the 3rd purple candle, saying, “We light the fourth candle for all who receive him as Lord.” Just having the Advent Candles week by week add more light to your dinner table could be a beautiful tradition and prepare for Christ’s birth.
- You might also want to follow our online Advent Calendar. It’s based on the tradition of the Jesse Tree (Isaiah 11:1-4), and follows Scripture passages that set up a framework for understanding the birth of the Messiah. It’s sort of like a “Quick Course in the Faith before We Get to Jesus.” It also reminds us that faith is for people whose lives are just like ours…
A new calendar page will appear on the website each morning, starting the day before Advent, this Saturday, November 28. About 10 am, the page will flip to the next day. (Afterwards, each day will also be available on a page that collects all the Advent Calendar entries.) Everyday at 4 pm, we will send out a prompt or a teaser — we will share the Question that the devotion calls you to wonder about…
Each day (we are recommending that you do this around dinner time, pairing it with lighting your Advent Candles), there is a devotion of preparation:
A. A video of someone from church wishing you well and reading you a Scripture passage. It is called “Today’s Video.” (In their video, as well, there will be some visual reference to the scripture they are reading — a secret you need to figure out.)
B. Then there will be a short reflection, to read. And an open-ended question you are asked to WONDER about at the end. It is called “Today’s Reading.” If you eat dinner with more than yourself, you all could discuss the question. (There will also be Christmas devotions for the 12 days of Christmas until the special Epiphany service on Thursday, January 6, 2021.)
Also in your Advent / Christmas box was a 11” x 14” blank calendar for the days Nov. 29 – Jan 6. You might put it on your refrigerator and each night with your devotions add two things to each day / square:
- write a word or phrase to remind you what you WONDERED about.
- “For extra credit,” see if you can identify (and write on the calendar also) what you saw in the person’s video that references the reading — for example, the person who reads the story of Adam and Eve and the Snake might have an apple in their video, or the person who reads Jacob’s ladder could do so sitting on a step ladder.
THE PERSON WHO CAN IDENTIFY ALL THE SIGNS IN THE VIDEOS CORRECTLY, S/HE GETS TO CHOOSE THE PAINT COLORS WE USE ON THE WALLS AND CEILING FOR THE SANCTUARY RENOVATION! (Or something like that…)
3. Advent Bible Study with Bob Robinson — a beloved Old First tradition will find itself on zoom this year — each Sunday of Advent (Nov. 29, Dec. 6, 13, 20) from 9:45 to 10:45 am.
4. Advent and Christmas Alternative Worship– church is going to offer us more opportunities to worship together, informally and in alternative ways:
Thursday, November 26 @ 11 am: Thanksgiving Worship — favorite Thanksgiving memories and our current realities as our motivation to pray.
Thursday, December 3 @ 7 pm: St. Nicholas Day Advent Prayer Service
Thursday, December 10 @ 7 pm: Human Rights Day Advent Prayer Service
Thursday, December 17 @ 7 pm: Blue Christmas Advent Prayer Service
Sunday, December 20 @ 11 pm: Las Posadas — looking for room in the inn with Mary and Joseph, we’re visiting people’s homes via our zoom gathering.
Thursday, December 24;
@ 5 pm: An impromptu, all-can-participate Christmas Pageant as our Family Christmas Eve Service.
@ 8 pm: Our traditional candlelight service translated to online worship.
Thursday, December 31 @ 7 pm: New Year’s Eve Watch Night Service
Wednesday, Jan. 6 @ 7 pm: Epiphany Prayer Service
5. Christmas Luncheon — Christmas can be a long day any year! But this year when some of us might be alone or just missing loved ones… we are offering a Christmas Luncheon. Plan ahead and make sure you have something special as we gather in our OFGatheringSpace on Christmas Day for lunch.
It’s all going to be different. But different isn’t necessarily bad. Actually, don’t we at Old First find blessing in difference? And, as Michael says sometimes when he gets feeling overwhelmed by all the church asks of him during the season, “whether I am ready or not, even if I don’t get everything done I should have, Christmas comes anyway! Thanks be to God…”