Monday, 6 December 2010


Advent usually flows from one week to another, linking thematically as we light the candles.

One of the downsides to homelessness is that this year, we have no such rhythm. Last week at our house, we made Christmas cards for the churches we have visited. Next week, we have a joint carol service with one of our ecumenical partner churches, and the last week of Advent, we have our much anticipated visit to friends in Hawkshead Hill.

So yesterday stood alone as the only Sunday in which we would explore the Advent themes together. The last couple of services we have taken at St PJ's have been rather too chaotic even for us (see Clare's reflection on Remembrance below!) so we wanted to be well prepared in advance. We also wanted to do an all-age service as the last couple have included a reflection as well as an all age activity.

How to sum up Advent in a single service, including folk in an age range from 5 to 90s?

An Advent Calendar, of course.

Now, for those who are immediately objecting that the whole point of an Advent Calendar is that is is about anticipation and waiting, and that to open all the doors in a single hour's service, I do quite agree - but in our defence, for some of our more junior members, the anticipation is very much about the end of the service!

However, that aside, Clare has an Advent Calendar with boxes - designed, I suspect, once again to subvert the Advent message of hope by filling them with chocolates to gratify immediate desires! However, we filled the boxes with symbols, messages and elements of the liturgy. So, for example, the first box contained a Call to Worship which whoever opened the box had to read out. The second contained a reference to our first hymn and so on. Others contained letter outlines for the children to colour in which spelled out the word H O P E.

If you know the children's newspaper "First News" it frequently contains articles which explain difficult topics in a manner suitable for younger children. Last week, in the runup to World AIDS Day there was a wonderful article about a boy who is HIV positive, but who, with the help of retroviral drugs is able to live a full active life. A real story of hope.

This was interspersed with the Advent hope readings from Isaiah and Matthew.

Yet another box contained a link to a video of the Children of Kabul from the Newsround website. The remaining boxes were filled with images of hope from the internet. Barack Obama's famous election poster and a beautiful (Photoshopped?) glass bottle of hope.

The only thing we would do differently another year is that rather too many of the boxes were filled with a tightly folded piece of A4 paper. The communion box contained a piece of bread which the opener had to guess meant that it was time for eucharist. This worked rather better than the paper messages. So, with a bit more time and imagination, we would look for more symbols to put in the boxes.

Number 24 contained a Barbie cup and saucer - and we all filed to the back of church for a warming cup of coffee!


  1. Sounds great to me. An idea to lodge in my mind for future use.

    I wonder if your continuity actually lies in your journeying from place to place with the incertainty that brings?

    Thinking of you all as ever.

  2. You're right, of course, the continuity is in the journey. A couple of years ago, we celebrated Posada, carrying Mary and Joseph around a variety of churches throughout Advent. We were talking yesterday about how appropriate that would be next year.