The Church of England has launched #GodWithUs, its Advent and Christmas campaign 'aimed at encouraging millions to experience the love of God' this festive season.
The campaign will be punctuated with three specially made films focusing on different aspects of festive Anglican worship, with the emphasis on sharing 'the joy of knowing the love of God and gathering in a local community during Advent and Christmas'.
The first video released today explains the Nine Lessons and Carols service and will be followed by films exploring the Christingle and Christmas Day services.
In an introduction to this campaign's accompanying book #GodWithUs: Your Christmas Journey, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby wrote that '[the book] seeks to help you explore what the Christmas story might mean in your life. The constant refrain of Christmas, in carols and readings, is that God is with us. In whatever situations you find yourself this Christmas, God is with you – you need only turn to him and ask to know his presence.'
The Church of England is inviting people to watch and share its #GodWithUs videos, join its Christmas Journey course, and find out about their nearest Church and its services.
Speakers in the video, shot at All Saints High Wycombe in Oxford, describe how the Nine Lessons and Carols service tells the Gospel stories of Jesus' birth, which when combined with the music and the 'great expectation' surrounding the gathering, can 'take it to another plane'.
People come expecting to 'bump into God' and 'experience something out of the ordinary', they said.
The Christmas season has historically been a deeply profound one in Christian theology and worship: the people of God are reminded of the importance of waiting, and are invited to consider anew the reality-shifting impact of the incarnation: God taking human flesh and dwelling with humankind, fulfilling the promise of a Messiah come to redeem creation.
In an increasingly post-Christian country, but one with rich Christian heritage, British Christians face the significant challenge of relating their faith to outsiders in a way that demonstrates not a tired relic of the past but something living, breathing and transformative – a 'gift' really worth unwrapping. Even with a season as established as Christmas, its religious moorings and implications can easily be missed.
That can make this time of year a fruitful one with those tasked with sharing the Christian gospel anew, like the soul[food] team behind the Church of England's Advent resources, emphasising a visit to church at Christmas as something simple and accessible, but also fraught with peace, wonder and the possibility of encounter with God.
It comes alongside other innovative evangelistic efforts such as those of Glen Scrivener and Speak Life, whose (relatively) big-budget film series Meet the Nativity promises an engaging, comedic and magical re-telling of the Christmas story, designed to be enjoyed and shared online.
As Scrivener told Christian Today, the aim is 'to get people to be interested in the actual Christmas message and not just buying toasters', and the first video has been met with considerable enthusiasm online.
Both Scrivener and the Church of England have shown savvy moves in an age that's largely less influenced by ecclesial traditions than it is by the latest John Lewis Christmas ad. Such a culture requires imagination on the part of the Church, a creative retooling for a world that's often indifferent or oblivious to the reason for the season. For those wishing for festive outreach resources this year, Christmas really has come early.
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