“It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress. But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.” Henri Nouwen
Advent is my favorite liturgical season, and in this year of 2020, filled with stress and trauma, I am looking forward to it even more. Advent gives us time and space to name the darkness and slowly bring light in. Advent brings hope. Advent reminds us that we are a part of a two-thousand-year-old story of God’s love. This year, especially, Advent invites us to tell our stories and to remember that we are not alone. We are not forgotten. We are all part of God’s story of love, hope, and healing for the world.
I have spent my adult life working in children’s ministry and love telling Bible stories. Every Advent I tell the story of Jesus’ family tree, starting with Abraham and God’s promise that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. For each person named (Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah…), I place a star on a dark blue cloth. Everyone listening gets a star to hold until the end when they place their star on the cloth and say their own name out loud. It is a powerful reminder that we are all part of God’s promise to Abraham. We are not forgotten.
And this is why we tell stories in Advent. We are part of this ancient, beautiful story of God’s promise to Abraham.
Why do we bring up storytelling in an article focused on stewardship? Because stewardship is about far more than money. We are living through a dual pandemic of coronavirus and racism. We are stewards of God’s story and have a responsibility to bring the transforming power of God’s love and hope to the people in our lives, no matter what. Since we cannot come together in person this Advent, we are compelled to share God’s story with our family and our neighbors in new ways.
Steward the Story in Worship (Virtually or in person)
- Divide the Star Story (at the end of this article) into sections based on the number of households that might be interested in recording themselves reading a section. For these videos, encourage each household to hold candles while they read.
- Invite people of all ages to record videos of themselves reading a story about one of the people in Jesus’ family tree. Children’s Bible storybooks can be great for this.
- Invite people of all ages to do video recordings of their prayers of the people. Make sure you get some prayers from children.
- Invite congregation members to record videos of themselves telling a story about a time they felt really close to God.
Steward the Story at Home and in Neighborhoods
- Light candles and read the Star Story (at the end of this article), or a Bible story about one of the people in Jesus’ family tree. Choose your favorite character or learn about someone new.
- Turn your Christmas tree lights on and talk about what is hard this year. Then pray for each other.
- Connect with family and friends using technology like Zoom or FaceTime, light candles and pray for each other.
- Make star cookies to share with your neighbors.
- Light candles and tell stories about your favorite Christmas celebrations.
- Draw stars on the windows in your home with washable markers or window markers. Add one each day from December 1 through the day of the Epiphany, January 6, 2021. If drawing stars on windows doesn’t work for you, cut out paper stars—one for each day—and tape them to your front door.
- Decorate fabric or wooden stars—one for each character in the Star Story, and one for each person in your family. Hang these stars on a Christmas tree or attach them together with ribbon to make a garland.
Star Story by Arlene Flancher
Use this story in any way that works in your context. Perhaps it will become part of your Advent worship. Perhaps you will make it available to your congregation for them to use at home during Advent. Maybe you will use it on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day during worship or as part of a children’s message. You know what will work best for you and the people in your congregation.
One night in the dark, hot, sandy desert, God talked with Abraham.
God said: “Leave your country, your family, and your home for a land that I will show you. Then God took him outside and said, “Look at the sky. Count the stars. Can you do it? You’re going to have a family with as many people as there are stars in the sky!”
So Abraham and Sarah left just as God said.
Abraham and Sarah had a son named Isaac, who married Rebekah.
Isaac and Rebekah and had twin boys – Jacob and Esau.
Jacob grew up and married and had many kids. One of them was Joseph, a dreamer and a leader.
There were many more people in God’s family.
Ruth and Naomi – loyal to God and best friends forever.
Rahab, who helped God’s people get into the Promised Land, and was the great grandmother of King David.
Boaz, King David’s great grandfather, and Obed – King David’s grandfather.
Jesse, King David’s father.
King David and his son, King Solomon.
There were still more people, including prophets who reminded people how to live and how to worship God.
Elizabeth and her husband, Zechariah, told people about the coming of Jesus, the Messiah.
John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, told everyone Jesus was coming.
God’s family grew and grew and grew. God’s people were not forgotten.
One day, Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem to be counted in the census.
Angels filled the sky and shepherds ran to see…
Jesus was born and the world turned upside down and changed forever.
But, that was not the end of God’s story.
Many, many more people have become part of God’s family. When Jesus was born, people everywhere knew what God could do. God’s people – God’s family was not forgotten.
God’s family continues to grow.
Great, great grandparents, grandparents, parents, kids, and babies all over the world are part of God’s family.
You are part of God’s family. I am part of God’s family. Each of us is one of the stars in the sky.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
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Hybrid Ministry in a Post-Pandemic Church
Understanding, Exploring, & Managing Bias and Burnout
Mere Science and Christian Faith
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