A new online Advent calendar will bring the true spirit of Christmas to life with 25 specially created videos made by members of the Church of Scotland ministries team.
Each of the thought provoking, often hard-hitting, films feature trainee ministers, probationers, a deacon and youth workers from across the country who reflect on a word that symbolises the true meaning of the season.
Half of the daily messages, which are also inspiring and uplifting, have been recorded by women and follow on from the Church’s successful Advent campaign last year which saw 24 short videos viewed more than 180,000 times.
Nearly 6,000 people signed up to receive the high quality films last year and early indications suggest that this year’s campaign, which is bigger in scope, will prove even more popular.
The tone of the films ranges from the joyful to the spiritual and are aimed at helping people seeking to find the true festive spirit amid the “rampant commercialism” which now dominates the weeks of Advent.
The Moderator of the General Assembly Right Rev Dr Russell Barr features in the first video, which was recorded in Glasgow’s Queen Street train station, and focuses on the word “Journey”.
He also features in the last video, recorded at the site of the old Rottenrow maternity Hospital in Glasgow near Strathclyde University where he was born, which is being released on Christmas Day and will reflect on the word “Shelter”.
It is a pertinent theme for Dr Barr because he is using his year in office to highlight homelessness and the Tomorrow’s Calling campaign, which encourages people to consider entering the ministry.
“The Advent season is when the church picks up the Christmas story and turns its attention towards Bethlehem,” he said.
“Beginning in Glasgow’s Queen Street station, the Advent Video project will take you on a fascinating journey of discovery.
“As the series explores some of the background to the birth of Jesus, you will learn so much more about the deep meaning of Christmas and so much more about yourself.
“And when the journey ends outside a broken down maternity hospital, your heart will be filled with wonder and you will be glad to join with the shepherds and angels, and with people the world over, celebrating the birth of the Christ child.”
Louise Purden, who is currently studying for the ministry at New College in Edinburgh, will focus on the word “Goodwill”, British Army chaplain Rev Chris Kellock, who worked in an Ebola field hospital in Sierra Leone in 2014, is reflecting on the word “Separation” and Deacon Angela Brydson of Dumfries is concentrating on the meaning of “Joy”.
Rev Rosie Addis, chaplain to deaf people in the east of Scotland, will focus on the word “Holy” to promote the Albany Church for the Deaf in Edinburgh.
And Rev Shuna Dicks of Aberlour Parish in Moray, who is heavily involved in supporting Syrian families who have moved to Forres, is reflecting on the word “Refugee”.
The minister, who is the spokeswoman of the Moray Supports Refugees group, said: “When you become a refugee you leave your old life behind and have to begin again.
“It is therefore important that we help our new neighbours, that they feel welcomed and valued.”
Jesus provides stability
Rev Valerie Allen, convener of the Church of Scotland’s Violence Against Women Task Group, is focusing on the word “Endurance”.
She recently bagged all the country’s 282 Munro mountains to raise more than £4,500 for charities which work to tackle domestic abuse. Ms Allen said:
“Endurance is a quality which, in many contexts, is one we can celebrate and admire.
“However, in the context of violence against women, endurance is more problematic.
“No woman should have to endure violence, in this context endurance is neither to be celebrated or admired.
“Rather the reason why some have to endure should be challenged.
“I hope this Advent meditation will help us reflect on the various contexts in which people endure.
“I hope it will break the silence surrounding the violence that many women needlessly endure.
“I hope it will inspire us to act to eradicate violence against women and to strive for fullness of life.
“And I hope it will communicate to women who are survivors that the church truly cares and will support them.”
Secretary of Ministries council, Rev Dr Jayne Scott, says this year’s Advent calendar reflects the spirit of the whole church in this festive season.
“It is a privilege for me to build on the success of last year’s Advent calendar.
“It has been quite a year, and as we approach the end of 2016 it leaves many communities across the world polarised, divided and unsure of what the future holds.
“As Christians, we have our faith to make sense of what is going on and Jesus to provide stability in our lives.
“Our online Advent calendar will help us share this message, not only with each other but also with a larger audience than ever before of people who will benefit from hearing this good news.
“We will have wonderful videos from the Moderator, other ministers, ministries development staff and the deaconate. I hope you will join me in supporting the calendar throughout Advent and liking and sharing these messages on social media.”
Lord, you have called us all to belong to your family – whether we live on our own, live with our spouse/ partner/‘other half’, or have an extensive network of children, grandchildren, siblings etc. We are all brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews to each other in your family. Thank you for that sense of ‘belonging’ – we are there for each other and can help and support each other
We pray for everyone who has an ‘other half’, whether they are part of the church or not. We pray that their relationship may grow and be strong to face the challenges that life can bring. We pray for all who are facing difficulties in their relationships. May we be ready to help, without judging
We pray for those who live on their own – some may have lived on their own for a long time, for some it may be a new experience. Living ‘on your own’ is not the same as ‘being lonely’, but some people are lonely, and we pray for them. Help us to be ready to offer friendship and welcome both in church and wherever we are
‘Oor wee school is a great wee school.’ Give thanks for the community of staff, pupils and parents at Dalreoch Primary School, for their commitment and all that they have achieved
The school is now going forward after a period of uncertainty over its future. Give thanks for those who have coped with that uncertainty, while providing a positive learning environment for the children. Pray for them as they plan for the future
Give thanks for all that the children have learned at school this year – not just the knowledge but the skills and life skills. Pray that they will continue to want to learn and to grow and develop as members of the school community
Pray for the children moving on at the end of term, and for those starting at Dalreoch after the summer