Advent 2021

A Neighbourly Invitation

Beth Burras,

Even though over 2000 years has passed since the word became flesh, it is still true today that Jesus is with us in our neighbourhoods. What is God saying to us about our own blocks, streets and estates this Christmas?

I love Christmas carols. Don’t tell anyone, but I usually start listening to them in September. I’ve even been known to play them earlier than that if I’m feeling a little low – they never fail to cheer me up. I think it is because they contain so much hope and peace.  A musical reminder of the Christmas story, the wonder of the incarnation, God coming to be with us. Hark the Herald Angels Sing reminds us that “Light and Life to all he brings” and that fills me with hope no matter the time of year.

The familiarity of Christmas carols for those who don’t usually attend church makes it a good time of year to be inviting people to come to church – they recognise the songs, the may remember the story, and for some people Christmas is one of the few times of year that they try to attend church.

The Talking Jesus research conducted in England in 2015 found that 67% of non-Christians know a practising Christian. What if each of those people were invited to a carol service by that practising Christian? What if they had someone to meet them beforehand for a hot chocolate, so they didn’t have to walk into the unfamiliar building alone? What if their friend could answer their questions afterwards, explaining the bits of the story that they didn’t understand? Elspeth, a colleague here at Church Army, shares this story…

“Every year my church hosts an outdoor carol service and we’re always encouraged to invite people. I was pretty nervous about this – how would I ask them? What would they say? What if they said no? I thought through my friends and picked the one person I thought was most likely to say yes. We were meeting for lunch the next day – I practiced the conversation, I psyched myself up and when I asked her… she immediately said no. It felt like I physically deflated.

But then another friend who’d overheard the conversation came over. “I LOVE carols! Can I come?” Shocked, I just nodded. “And can my housemates come too? Just the other day we were saying how we miss doing that kind of thing”.
So that Sunday, the four of us went to the carol service, bundled up in our coats, scarfs and hats. And afterwards we sat in a nearby coffee shop and talked about our Christmas plans.”

The COVID pandemic led to many churches having services online, and this year there are a great number of online carol services which we can invite people to. As Jesus came to be present with us, how can we encourage our friends and neighbours to join with believers locally and globally, and discover for themselves that Jesus is present in their lives, and is also a present to be received?

Bible Verse: 1 John 1:14 (MSG)

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