Advent Studies for Small Groups

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image The Journey, by Adam Hamilton
image The Purpose of Christmas, by Rick Warren
image Christmas is Not Your Birthday, by Mike Slaughter
image Advent Conspiracy, by McKinley, Seay, and Holder
image Advent Reflections: Making All Things New
image Journey to Christmas

The four weeks leading up to Christmas are a special time of spiritual preparation that can often get lost in the tangible preparations of decorating, baking, and gift-buying. Don't miss the weekly opportunity that small group and Sunday school gatherings provide to turn people's minds and hearts back to the reason for the season.

Whether your discussion is usually straight out of the Bible without another book as guide, or whether you use a formal curriculum year-round, consider the following books and DVDs for a special Advent experience that will transform the way you approach the birth of Jesus Christ and his presence in our world.

The Journey: Walking the Road to Bethlehem

Written by Adam Hamilton, The Journey takes readers from Nazareth to Bethlehem, following Mary and Joseph's footsteps on the way to birthing the Messiah. The DVD features Hamilton on location in the Holy Land, giving a firsthand experience of these holy places. This study can actually be used as a church-wide program, with childrens', youth, and personal devotion editions in addition to the main book and the DVD, which includes five sessions, plus "The Holy Land Today" video. (Read the book review.)

The Purpose of Christmas

In this extension of his "Purpose-Driven" line, Rick Warren lays out three purposes of Christmas as presented by the angel when he appeared to Mary: celebration, salvation, and reconciliation. Readers explore why Christmas matters and how it can change our lives forever. This three-session study includes a DVD featuring Warren, and a study guide to aid group discussion. With fewer sessions than other studies, this may be a good choice for groups that take a week or two off around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Christmas is Not Your Birthday

Mike Slaughter's rallying cry, "Christmas is not your birthday. It's Jesus' birthday," has inspired members of his church and others around the world to cut back on Christmas spending to give sacrificially to help those in need. His book by the same title helps readers experience the joy of living and giving like Jesus. Five chapters, each with questions at the end for group discussion, explore what we can learn from the messy, scandalous first Christmas, and how that biblical perspective should shape our celebration today. (Read the review, and check out this free guide for expanding the study into a sermon series and Miracle Offering campaign in your church.)

Advent Conspiracy

Frustrated by holiday consumerism, Rick McKinley, Chris Seay, and Greg Holder conspired to show how readers can substitute compassion for consumption at Christmastime by practicing four simple but powerful, countercultural concepts: Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, and Love All. The book includes a study guide and can stand alone or be enhanced by the four-session DVD. The Advent Conspiracy website offers additional resources and ways to put the conspiracy into action in your church and community.

Advent Reflections: Making All Things New

This year's Advent edition in the Book of Faith series focuses on God's ongoing work of renewing all things, particularly our stories, our days, our spirits, and our ways. With multiple parts, this one small book serves multiple purposes in creating a more meaningful holiday season. In addition to four Bible studies that can be used in classes, small groups, or families, there are short daily devotions for personal reflection, and a section of activities in the back that will appeal to crafty readers and those with children at home.

Journey to Christmas

This unique resource is described as a "reality show meets documentary," a 2-DVD set featuring the stories of five very different people—a messianic Jew, a First Nations woman, a poet, a Christian radio personality, and an agnostic lawyer—as they journey through the Holy Land to discover the true meaning of Christmas. Divided into four sessions for study group use, the DVDs can also be shown in one viewing. Though available for pre-order, the resource doesn't officially release until December, making early planning difficult. (Watch the trailer for a preview.)

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