Since the fourth century, the Church has celebrated Advent, which comes from a Latin word meaning “coming” or “arrival.” We observe Advent the four weeks before Christmas as we prepare for Jesus’ coming—celebrating his first coming and anticipating his Second Coming. Advent allows Jesus’ first coming to shape our daily lives as we anticipate Christmas Day. It is also a time to consider how we long for his return and the various ways we see him coming into the present age as we wait.
How do I use this guide?
We hope this guide serves as a helpful companion through this sacred season. Use it as an individual, family, or life group to accompany the sermon series “Starlight: A Journey Toward Christmas.” If you miss a service, watch the weekly sermon here. We’ve included questions for you to ponder, a practice to help you live out what you are hearing, and a prayer for the week. You’ll also find music to lead you into a deeper place of intimacy with Christ.
May Jesus be the light that guides you on your journey this Advent and Christmas season.
November 27 - December 3, 2022
An Unexpected Journey
At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea.
- What path has God unexpectedly taken you on during your faith journey? Who are the people alongside you with whom you forged a bond? As a result of taking an unexpected path, how has Jesus been formed in you?
- As you have gone an unexpected way, how has your reluctance turned into anticipation? Where do you sense anticipation for what God is doing in, around, and through you and your family? How might this unexpected path be less about you and more about how God is drawing others to him?
This week as you are driving/walking to work, school, the grocery store, etc., take a different route, despite it possibly taking longer. Pay attention to the sights and sounds. Take time to reflect on what stood out to you that’s different from your normal route.
Father, despite my reluctance, take me down unexpected paths where I must completely entrust myself to you. As my heart ponders the mysterious way you lead, awaken my spirit with anticipation for what you want to do in my life and in those around me. Amen.
December 4 - 10, 2022
An Untimely Journey
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born.
- When in your life have you wondered, “God, why are you doing this now?” or “God, why didn’t you do this sooner?” How have you seen God provide during those times? How did those “untimely” journeys open you to Jesus in a new way?
- How have others experienced Jesus through you as you’ve walked in trustful obedience? When have you experienced Jesus as others have walked in trustful obedience on an untimely journey?
When something doesn’t go according to our timing, we often refuse to be fully present. This week, when you find yourself somewhere you’d rather not be or doing something you’d rather not do, practice being fully present: look at and speak to people around you; invite God into the moment with you; notice colors, sounds, and smells. Afterward, consider how you sensed God with you and what you noticed by being fully present.
Lord, no matter the timing of circumstances in my life, stir in me a desire for your kingdom to come and your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.
December 11 - 17, 2022
A Transformative Journey
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. ...The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God.
- How has God revealed himself in the ordinary places of your life? When has God pulled you into his plan, but your first response was fear? How can posturing yourself to sense God’s awe and wonder transform fear into joy?
- The shepherds chose not to remain in fear and wait for normal to return; instead, they left the familiar to venture out to participate in God's plan. How are you willing to reposition yourself to see and hear what God is doing outside your everyday life? What does it look like for you to “spread the word” about Jesus?
Consider the normal places where you do life. Practice repositioning yourself this week by going to places near your work or house where you don’t usually go—a particular neighborhood, store, coffee shop, etc. Spend time in those places purposefully looking and listening for God’s presence and praying for people to encounter Jesus.
Lord, stir a holy curiosity within me to reposition myself to see and hear you in places outside my normal routine. May the joy of Jesus' presence eradicate the fear in my life so I can live out the transformative message that “God is with us!” Amen.
December 18 - 24, 2022
A Discerning Journey
…they went on their way, and the star … went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. … Having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
- What have been the good and bad guiding influences on your faith journey? Looking back over your journey with Jesus, how have you learned to discern his presence? Where do you struggle with discerning life decisions? Who in your life helps you discern well?
- How has discerning Jesus as King led you to a life of true worship? How has discerning the true King changed your direction, leading you away from potential disaster?
This week as the world goes about the hustle and bustle of final Christmas preparations, practice slowing down. Notice the signs that Christmas Day will soon arrive. What signs in our world reveal Jesus’ soon return?
Father, give me the wisdom to discern the times. Guide my steps and keep my spiritual eyes and ears attuned to your movements as you bring people back home to you.
December 25 - 31, 2022
This week we officially move from the Advent season to the Christmas season, which extends through January 5.
As we end one year and begin another, we encourage you to lean into a time of examination with the Holy Spirit. Below is a prayer with five movements to guide you in the process, which we suggest you do with a journal/notebook in hand.
Remember the presence of God is with you always. In the stillness of this reflective time, listen for God’s voice. Spend time recognizing how Jesus was with you in unexpected ways this year.
With a grateful heart and a desire to live a life of thankfulness, spend time reflecting.
- What are you grateful for this past year?
- What are you grateful for as the new year begins?
It’s essential this time of year to review the interactions, responses, feelings, interruptions, and intentions of the past year.
- When in the past year were you cooperating most fully with God’s action in your life? When were you resisting?
- What habits and life patterns do you notice from the past year? Which ones brought you closer to Jesus? Which ones seemed to pull you away from him?
- What might God want to end in your life? What might he want to begin?
This is a time to seek forgiveness or direction or resolve to make changes in your life.
- Beginning with the new year, how do you want to live your life differently from this past year?
- What current patterns or rhythms in your life do you want to keep?
- Is there anything God has asked you to do that you’ve left undone this year? How might you resolve to live in obedience to him this coming year?
Look Forward and Pray in Hope:
Spend time expressing your hope for the year ahead.
- As you look forward to 2023, talk to Jesus about how you hope to experience spiritual growth and transformation.
- What do you desire your relationship with Jesus to look like next year at this time? How do you hope your relationship with him will influence your relationship with others?