The weeks leading up to Christmas provide an opportunity for Christians, and even our broader culture, to turn our minds to Jesus.

But how do you help Christians reimagine the holiday season that has been co-opted by secular and consumerist practices?

How do you take the concepts and traditions, many rooted in high church liturgies, to modern churches, dinner churches, home churches and other fresh expressions?

This episode features an excerpt of a recent webinar where you’ll hear ideas that will help you experience Advent, no matter what your church looks like. This is just one of dozens of hours of practical training content you can access on FX Connect, our unique and useful learning community for pioneering leaders. If you love this free resource, sign up for your free account at fxconnectus.org. 

Fresh Expressions is a worldwide movement of everyday missionaries who want to see churches thrive in the places we live, eat, work and play by leveraging the creativity and endurance of the inherited church. To learn a simple five-phase process for starting a new expression of church go to freshexpressions.com/howtostart.

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Interview Summary

In the Fresh Expressions podcast episode “Advent for Everyone,” a panel of practitioners explore the opportunities of the Advent season. This conversation sheds light on how communities can embrace and celebrate Advent in ways that resonate with people of all ages, fostering a sense of inclusivity and shared anticipation, especially outside of traditional church settings.

The Essence of a Holy Advent

John Davis, an Episcopal priest and a trainer for Fresh Expressions North America, underscores the spiritual significance of Advent. He explains, “Advent isn’t just a countdown to Christmas; it’s a sacred time to align ourselves with God’s will and prepare our hearts for the birth of Jesus.” Davis delves into the historical and sacramental aspects of Advent, emphasizing its role as a period of reflection and anticipation.

Blending Tradition with Innovation

The discussion highlights the importance of integrating traditional Advent practices with creative, contemporary approaches. The panelists share various ideas, such as utilizing symbols like Advent wreaths and candles, not just as decorations but as meaningful representations of the season’s spiritual journey. They suggest innovative ways to adapt these symbols to engage a broader audience, ensuring that the essence of these traditions is both preserved and revitalized.

Focus on Intergenerational Inclusivity

A significant emphasis of the episode is on creating Advent experiences that are accessible and engaging for all age groups. Johanna Myers, Associate Director of Messy Church USA, shares her insights: “Advent is a wonderful opportunity to bring generations together. Activities like crafting Advent wreaths or spirals, or interactive storytelling, can make the journey to Christmas a shared experience for everyone.” This approach underlines the importance of fostering a sense of community and belonging during the Advent season.

Advent as a Missional Opportunity

Jonathan Coleman, a United Methodist pastor, speaks to the missional potential of Advent. He highlights the importance of engaging with the wider community during this season, suggesting, “Advent isn’t confined to the church walls. It’s a time to connect with people in different settings, to ask reflective questions, and to encourage practices of mindfulness and prayer.” Coleman’s perspective opens up possibilities for churches to extend their Advent celebrations into non-traditional spaces, creating new opportunities for spiritual growth and community building.

Engaging Beyond the Church

The podcast inspires listeners to think of Advent as a community-wide event, transcending the boundaries of traditional church settings. Creative ideas for communal engagement are shared, such as organizing a sheep trail in local businesses, demonstrating how Advent can be celebrated in diverse communal spaces and encouraging participation from the wider community.

A Call to Action

“Advent for Everyone” is not just a concept but a practical call to action. It invites churches and individuals to reimagine the Advent season as a time of inclusive celebration, intergenerational engagement, and creative expression. As we approach Advent, the episode encourages us to embrace these ideas, creating experiences that welcome everyone in our communities and share the anticipation and joy of the season.

Reflection Questions

Fresh Expressions Podcast Copywriter

After reviewing the transcript of the “Advent for Everyone” episode from the Fresh Expressions podcast, here are five reflection questions to consider:

  1. Intergenerational Engagement: How can the principles and practices of Advent be adapted to engage people of all ages, fostering an intergenerational understanding and celebration of the season?
  2. Cultural Relevance and Tradition: In what ways can traditional Advent practices be reimagined or integrated into contemporary cultural contexts, such as in breweries or community gatherings, to make them more accessible and meaningful?
  3. Personal and Communal Preparation: Reflect on the idea of Advent as a time of preparation, both personally and communally. How can individuals and communities be encouraged to prepare spiritually for Advent, beyond the commercial aspects of the holiday season?
  4. Incorporating Symbolism and Ritual: Considering the rich symbolism of Advent (like the Advent wreath or Jesse Tree), how can these symbols be used to deepen the understanding and spiritual experience of the season for people with varying levels of church involvement or religious background?
  5. Mission and Outreach during Advent: How can the themes of Advent be used as a tool for mission and outreach? In what ways can the anticipation and hope of Advent be shared with those who are not part of a church community or are unfamiliar with the Christian faith?
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Jeanette Staats
About the Author

Jeanette Staats

Jeanette has over 20 years of diverse experience in collegiate ministry, specializing in general oversight, staff coaching and development, children's ministry, and discipleship. She holds a B.A. in English with an emphasis in Professional Writing from Virginia Tech and a Graduate Certificate in Theological Studies from the John Leland Center for Theological Studies. She also serves on the board for The Ecclesia Network. Jeanette is an avid Hokie fan and rarely misses an opportunity to watch a collegiate sporting event.