Messy Church for Advent/Christmas/Epiphany

First of all, a confession. I know Messy Church is a movement of churches doing wonderful work developing family friendly worship experiences. Our small congregation has few families with little kids, but I still find the idea of interactive, intergenerational worship with a focus on arts & faith to be a powerful one worth exploring. So, I’ve borrowed the name for two worship services we’ve had with our congregation.

One of my goals is for the congregation to create something that will be used in worship at a later time. This Sunday the projects included the candle holders for our Advent Wreath and stars for Epiphany. You can see pictures of our first Messy Church on Pentecost on Flickr.

On Christ the King Sunday, we took a break from the church calendar, and instead offered a hybrid service looking forward to Advent, Christmas and Epiphany–the upcoming seasons of the new church year. Here’s an overview of the service with links and photos.

The service began with three parts, each focusing on one of the seasons.

The Season of Advent

When the year dies in preparation for the birth
Of other seasons, not the same, on the same earth,
Then saving and calamity together make
The Advent gospel, telling how the heart will break…
Therefore it was in Advent that the Quest began
In the wail of wind the flower of Britons all
Went out, and desolation was in Arthur’s hall.
~ C.S. Lewis, “Launcelot”, Narrative Poems, p 95

Scripture Reading Isaiah 2:1-5

Advent Carol

An Advent Credo  (by Daniel Berrigan, adapted as a responsive reading)

The Season of Christmas

The Last Word
Good news; but if you ask me what it is, I know not;
It is a track of feet in the snow,
It is a lantern showing a path,
It is a door set open.
-G.K. Chesterton 1874-1936

Scripture Reading  Luke 2:1-7

Christmas Carol

The Season of Epiphany

A new year has begun. During this year, too, all the paths from east to west, from morning until evening, lead on and on as far as the eye can see, through the deserts of life, with all its changes. But these paths can be turned into the blessed pilgrimage to the absolute, the journey to God. Set out, my heart, take up the journey ! The star shines. You can’t take much with you on the journey. And you will lose much on the way. Let it go. Gold of love, incense of yearning, myrrh of suffering – these you certainly have with you. He shall accept them. And we shall find him.
-Karl Rahner, The Great Church Year

Scripture Matthew 2:1-12

Epiphany Carol

Epiphany Reading  The wise man’s journey (from Cloth for the Cradle, by the Iona Community.)

Reflection

Interactive Prayer Stations

Advent Wreath Candle Holders Station
We saw this photo from the Grace Community in London and were inspired to make our own. 

2015-11-22 12.56.27

Candle holders for the Advent Wreath

Tent cards with instructions were by each candle holder.

Candle of Hope
Tear a piece of tissue paper.
Write on the paper a hope you have for for the season.
Take a brush, dip it in the mod podge and paste your hope onto the candle holder. As you do so, offer your prayer to God.
Together our hopes and prayers will be remembered.

Candle of Peace
Tear a piece of tissue paper.
Write on the paper a person, place or situation for which you will pray for peace.
Take a brush, dip it in the mod podge and paste your prayer for peace onto the candle holder. As you do so, offer your prayer to God.
Together may we become peacemakers for the realm of God.

Candle of Joy
Tear a piece of tissue paper.
Write on the paper a word of thanks for something, someone, or somewhere that brings you joy.
Take a brush, dip it in the mod podge and paste your thanksgiving onto the candle holder. As you do so, offer your prayer to God.
Together our joy will shine as a bright light.

Candle of Love
Tear a piece of tissue paper.
Write on the paper someone or something that reveals for you God’s love.
Take a brush, dip it in the mod podge and paste the paper onto the candle holder. As you do so, offer your prayer to God.
Together God’s love is made known.

Christ Candle
Tear a piece of white or silver tissue paper.
Leave this paper blank as a symbol of your openness to the presence of Christ this Advent season. Take a brush, dip it in the mod podge and paste it onto the candle holder. As you do so, offer your prayer for openness to God.
Christ is coming to make all things new.

Christmas Labyrinth Prayer Station
A small spiral labyrinth laid out with garland and interspersed with figurines from a nativity set leads to the center where a small table holds a creche. This contemplative prayer station invited worshipers to ponder the final verse of Christina Rosetti’s carol, In the Bleak Midwinter. A video of Kings College Choir singing the carol was playing on a loop softly. Upon leaving the spiral, individuals could write down a gift they planned to offer the Christ Child inside a gift box. An offering plate was also nearby.
2015-11-21 13.22.32

Epiphany Papier Mache Stars
This is where things got messy! We have a nice selection of papier mache stars drying on a table in the sanctuary. Now we just have to figure out how to use them for our Epiphany worship!

Directions:
Draw a star on a piece of cardboard. Don’t panic—freestyle, imperfect stars are exactly what this project needs!
Cut out two stars the same size. (Hint: you can staple a second piece of cardboard to your first piece and cut through both pieces at once).
Add dimension to your star by placing cotton balls in between the two cut stars. Then staple the two stars together.
Tear strips of newspaper, dip them into the papier mache mixture, and cover your star completely.

Communion Feast
Our final prayer station was for communion. The table was set with holiday china to evoke a festive mood. We observed communion by intinction.

Directions:
At its core, communion is an earthly expression of the sacred feast of God. It is a celebration, a banquet hosted by the Holy One.
Therefore we know that this table, Christ’s table is a place of welcome.
Take a moment and imagine God making ready for this feast,
setting the table, preparing the food and drink.
At this festive meal there is a place for you.

With a word of thanks,
write your name on a place card and set it on the table.
Take a piece of bread, dip it in the juice, and taste the richness of God.23226478225_a49eb6f018_o

We brought everyone back to their seats as we joined in singing Sanctuary. Some of those pesky announcements. and then out the door singing, Halle-halle-hallelujah!

You can find more pictures on Messy Church Advent/Christmas/Epiphany on flickr.

 

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