Fellowship – Snacks or a Meal (10 minutes with snacks; longer, obviously, if there is a meal).
Gathering Time (5-10 minutes). In pairs or groups of three, have participants consider their Christmas celebration. Christmas day is past, and in much of the community, Christmas (which began with retailers weeks ago) is over. Today is actually the seventh day of Christmastide. Are you still celebrating the birth of Christ, or are you ready to be done? If over-indulging in goodies and more-than-usual social activity has been the norm of late, how might you celebrate the Christ child in a quieter, more contemplative way?
- The wedding finery mentioned in Isaiah 61:10 (garland and jewels) is a metaphor for the finest gifts of God (salvation and righteousness). The wedding as a joyous occasion is a metaphor for the much longed-for restoration of the community of exiles. What metaphors can you use to portray how you feel about the gifts of God to you?
- Consider the notion of vindication. All the passages speak in some way to the restoration and/or vindication of Israel. What is the sense of vindication in reference to Israel as a people of God and the way we may think of vindication today?
- Galatians 4:4-7 reminds us that we are no longer slaves, but children; as children, then heirs—because in the fullness of time, God’s promise came to fruition. Do you see yourself as a child and an heir? What does that mean to you in the context of day-to-day life? Have you had an experience of vindication or restoration “in the fullness of time”? What is it like to be patient; waiting (and hopefully, working) until the fullness of time?
- Simeon (Luke 2:25-32) was apparently not an invited participant in Jesus’ presentation, but the Spirit guided him to the Temple, where he announced the holy purpose of Jesus. Have you ever felt that you were part of a holy moment? What was that like? Have you ever had an “aha moment” of insight when some purpose or direction from God (or a trusted person of faith) became clear? Have you experienced the “light for revelation” in any other way?
- Simeon also described this baby’s life as one filled with opposition and pain (Luke 2:33-35). What must it have been like for new parents to feel the weight of responsibility for what was to come from Jesus’ life? Has God called you to a special task? How did it feel to embark upon it? What sort of support did you need and what did you get? How does your faith enable or empower you to act in spite of risk, opposition, or pain?
- Anna, a prophet and righteous widow, (Luke 2:36-38) reiterated, even legitimized, Simeon’s claim of Jesus as redeemer. What “elders” in your church help support ministry, encourage participation, or otherwise advance the goals of the church? How can you cultivate an openness both to the voice of experience as well as to the voice of the “holy children” in your congregation?
- What are the gifts of the Christmas season that you will take with you into the season of “business as usual”?
Prayer (10 minutes). Share prayer requests and respond appropriately.
Sending Forth (2 minutes). End with the following prayer, a similar prayer, or the Lord’s Prayer:
Holy, Saving God, we confess that we have focused during Advent on many things besides the “reason for the season.” We have overextended, overindulged, and under-appreciated. Yet, we are the continual recipients of your gifts and grace, for which we are humbly grateful. Return our focus to the gifts of salvation and restoration and enliven us to be full partners in redemption. In the name of Christ, the light of revelation to the world. Amen.
Click here to subscribe and receive the Discipleship Ministries email newsletters.
Diana Hynson has a Doctor of Ministry from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC. She has edited and written curriculum for several decades and was inspired in today’s writing by listening to Christmas music. She has a sizable collection of Christmas hymns and songs from all around the world. (She has also watched “White Christmas” more times than she can count.)