One of the verses that give me great hope during the Advent season is John 1:5.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (ESV)
Many people in our churches and communities understand the darkness, especially this year. The darkness has been so heavy that, at times, it has felt suffocating. In the midst of this, everybody is longing for what the Light of Christ brings: hope, love, joy, and peace. This is an opportunity for the followers of Jesus to share the Light with our neighbors!
Yet, as I’ve spoken with churches about their plans for outreach for the upcoming Advent season, many feel like our current circumstances have greatly limited our ability to think about missional opportunities this year. Many feel like their creative juices have dried up because we’ve had to adapt in so many new ways already over the past few months. What are some practical ways that the church can share the Light with their neighbors this year?
Create an outdoor prayer station on your church's lawn or in a local park (with permission, of course) based on John 1:5. Provide a written prayer that invites people to pray for God’s light to shine in the community where you are. Invite people to respond tangibly—one idea is to write the dark things they are experiencing right now on a dead branch. Then ask them to tie a white ribbon to the branch symbolizing that the Light is overcoming the darkness. Offer a coloring page that kids and adults can take with them.
Prayer walks your neighborhood with a flashlight in hand. Pray that God’s light will shine brightly in your neighborhood. Pray for the areas of darkness—that God’s light will infiltrate them.
Invite your congregation and your neighbors to submit artwork based on John 1:5. Display these during the last week of Advent in a tent or underneath an overhang of your church building. Have a gallery night with hot chocolate for your neighbors.
Distribute LED candles to your neighbors. Let them know that you’ll be lighting a candle every evening during advent, and as you do, you’ll be praying that the Light of Christ will shine love, joy, peace, and hope on their homes and neighborhood. Invite them to put the candle in their window and to join you in this prayer.
Local businesses especially need their neighbors this year. Put together a directory of small businesses in your neighborhood and distribute it to your neighbors, encouraging them to shop locally. If you’re feeling generous, you may even want to offer small gift cards to those who purchase something at one of these businesses.
Where have you seen God at work in your community? Thank those who have shone God’s light by sending a thank-you note or dropping by a special treat.
Invite different small groups or households in your church to design an outdoor Advent candle station—one for each of the Advent themes of hope, love, joy, and peace. Place a new one on the church lawn each week. As they design it, ask them to consider what dark places in your community need this advent theme and how God’s light has overcome it.
If you try any of these ideas, please send us a picture and tell us what you learned from it! Where did you see God at work? Where did the Light shine brightly?
Written by Amy Schenkel, Resonate's regional mission leader for the Great Lakes region