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.”
Let us remember the courage, the devotion to duty, the self-sacrifice of the men and women in our armed forces, the toil, the endurance, the suffering of those who were not in uniform, the support of those from afar
Let us remember those who were wounded in the fight, who perished in air raids at home, who fell in battle, who are buried at sea or in some corner of a foreign field
Let us remember those who were our enemies, who also lost parents, children, brothers, sisters, friends, who also lost homes, hopes, dreams
Let us remember those who came back, whose lives still bear the scars of war, who lost sight or limbs or reason, who lost faith in God and hope for humanity
Let us remember those currently caught up in wars – the military personnel and the civilians
Let us remember God’s will for his world, his continuing care for us and his call to us to follow in the way of Christ
The Christian Heritage of Dumbarton project of Dumbarton Churches Together (of which Riverside and West Kirk are part) again organised a trip for P6/P7 children from local schools to the Castle, in connection with St Columba’s Day. 120 children from five schools explored the castle, assisted by some enthusiastic guides and helpers – learning about the Castle’s long history, and the long connection between the Christian Church and Dumbarton. It finished with a short service where children from different schools shared prayers for each other and for the town
As the time drew near when Jesus would be taken up to heaven, he made up his mind and set out on his way to Jerusalem. Luke 9: 51
Sunday 14th February
As Jesus made his way to Jerusalem, he went along the border between Samaria and Galilee. He was going in to a village when he was met by ten men suffering from a dreaded skin-disease. They stood at a distance and shouted, ‘Jesus! Master! Take pity on us!’… When one of them saw that he was healed, he came back… and thanked Jesus. The man was a Samaritan. Luke 17: 11-13, 15-16
Sunday 21st February
Jesus said to the twelve disciples… ‘Listen! We are going to Jerusalem where everything the prophets wrote about the Son of Man will come true. He will be handed over to the Gentiles, who will mock him, insult him, and spit on him. They will whip him and kill him, but three days later he will rise to life’ Luke 18: 31-33
Sunday 28th February
Some people brought their babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. The disciples saw them and scolded them for doing so, but Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the children come to me and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’ Luke 18: 15-16
Sunday 6th March
A man ran up, knelt before him and asked him.. ‘What must I do to receive eternal life? … Ever since I was young I have kept the commandments.’ … Jesus said, ‘Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me.’ When the man heard this, gloom spread over his face, and he went away sad, because he was very rich. Mark 10: 17, 20 – 22
Sunday 13th March
Jesus went on into Jericho and was passing through. There was a chief tax collector there named Zacchaeus, who was rich… Jesus said to Zacchaeus, ’I must stay in your house today.’… All the people who saw it started grumbling, ‘This man has gone as a guest to the home of a sinner!’ Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Listen, sir! I will give half my belongings to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone, I will pay him back four times as much.’ Luke 19: 1-2, 5b-8
Sunday 20th March
The disciples took the colt to Jesus. Then they threw their cloaks over the animal and helped Jesus get on. As he rode on, people spread their cloaks on the road. When he came near Jerusalem, at the place where the road went down the Mount of Olives, the large crowd of his disciples began to thank God and praise him in loud voices for all the great things that they had seen. Luke 19: 35-38
Monday 21st March
Jesus went to the Temple and began to drive out all those who were buying and selling. He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the stools of those who sold pigeons… He taught the people, ‘It is written in the Scriptures ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for the people of all nations.’ But you have turned it into a hideout for thieves!’ Mark 11: 15b-17
Tuesday 22nd March
Jesus said… ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. … Love your neighbour as you love yourself.’ Mark 12: 30-31
Wednesday 23rd March
While Jesus was eating, a woman came in with an alabaster jar full of very expensive perfume… she broke the jar and poured the perfume on Jesus’ head… Jesus said… ‘She poured perfume on my body to prepare it ahead of time for burial.’ Mark 14: 3b, 8b
Thursday 24th March
There was a garden in that place, and Jesus and his disciples went in. Judas, the traitor, knew where it was, because many times Jesus had met there with his disciples. So Judas went to the garden, taking with him a group of Roman soldiers… Then the Roman soldiers with their commanding officer and the Jewish guards arrested Jesus, bound him and took him to the High Priest’s father-in-law. John 18: 1b-3a, 12
Friday 25th March
The soldiers took charge of Jesus. He went out, carrying his cross, and came to ‘The Place of the Skull’… There they crucified him; and they also crucified two other men… Jesus saw his mother and the disciple he loved standing there; so he said to his mother, ‘He is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘She is your mother.’ From that time the disciple took her to live in his home. Jesus knew that by now everything had been completed… He said, ‘It is finished!’ Then he bowed his head and died. John 19: 16b, 17, 26-28a, 30b
Saturday 26th March
Joseph, who was from Aramithea, asked Pilate if he could take Jesus’ body… Nicodemus… went with Joseph… the two men took Jesus’ body and wrapped it in linen with the spices according to the Jewish custom of preparing a body for burial. There was a garden in the place where Jesus had been put to death, and in it there was a new tomb where no one had ever been buried. Since it was the day before the Sabbath and because the tomb was close by, they placed Jesus’ body there. John 19: 38-42
Sunday 27th March
Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been taken away from the entrance… Mary stood crying outside the tomb… She turned around and saw Jesus standing there; but she did not know that it was Jesus… She thought that he was the gardener… Jesus said to her ‘Mary!’ She turned towards him and said in Hebrew ‘Rabboni!’ (This means ‘Teacher’) John 20: 1, 11, 14, 15b, 16