Advent Nativity Activity – Santons in the Home and Church by Emma Morgan

by Christine Sine

Our invitation to shape Advent this year around the theme Who Will You Invite to the Manger? is bearing fruit. Emma Morgan at Eastern Hills Community Church in Sydney Australia  has shaped their Advent services around this theme and I thought that some of you too might be inspired by what she has put together. All images are from life at Eastern Hills Community Church.

Nativity scene

Weekly Advent Nativity Activity – Santons in the Church and Home.

Each week we will bring a Nativity scene, made from fabric and paper mache figures of Christ’s family and other figures of different ages. 

Each week the church community will add new objects of welcome to the scene as part of the ‘Santons in the church prayer activity’. Each week the community will take home a print out of the ‘santons in the home’ prayer activity.

 Introduction to read in church for the ‘Santons’ prayer activity

 There is a traditional French custom in which santons ‘little saints’ from the local village are placed in a traditional Nativity scene. The little saints come wearing their work clothes to visit the Holy family. They bring the Christ child presents they have made or grown, hunted or sold. They perform of offer simple gestures of thoughtfulness.  The shepherds summon all the villagers.

The baker brings a special loaf marked with a cross baked only at Christmas time, the vegetable merchant, soap maker, cheese vendor, and wine grower bring their produce. The grandmother has knitted socks for baby Jesus and a woman brings soup for Mary’s recovery. A gypsy often despised as a thief brings her baby and a tamborine to sing to Jesus. The humble boy brings only a bundle of sticks for a fire to keep the baby warm. A poor old man, who thinks he has nothing to give the Baby, holds his lantern and offers to light the way for others.  Santons come from all occupations and all classes of society, all ages of people, are represented.

 Each week as we gather in worship we will reflect on whom we welcome to manger, who we invite to share in this good news. As we leave this place into everyday lives we will bring a unique offering of thanks to God from our humble week. We are all shepherds of welcome, we are all santons with a gift to bring.

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 Advent Week 1 – Nov 30 – Keep Awake

 Reading: Mark 13:24-37

 Santons in the church Advent week 1:

 Leader brings a fruit bowl and place in manger scene. Provide a small piece of plasticine for each person and print ‘Santons in the home’ for each person.

 All times of the day are sacred. Our reading from Mark today talks of the possibility of God returning at any possible moment; Evening, midnight, before dawn or in the morning. This reminds us of the meals of the day, the times where we reach for a cup of water or tea. God is alongside us, working out his purposes in all moments, resting with us when we eat and drink.

This is the first week of our ‘santon’ Nativity scene. As a church community we ask ourselves ‘Who do we welcome to the manger?’ We will begin our Nativity scene by inviting those close to our heart, people in our family or close friends. Those we might share a meal with.

We ask the Spirit to remind us of someone close to our heart  – a family member or close friend who we want to bring to this manger of hope. Consider them as you make a piece of fruit from the plasticine and place it in the bowl here at the manger. As you make this fruit you are praying welcome for them.

 Santons in the Home Advent week 1: Offer a meal to God this week. Be mindful and prayerful as you prepare it or purchase it for yourself or others. May it be a blessing to those close to your heart. May they know that Christ is near, Hope is near, Love is near with every mouthful.

To read at home: 1 Corinth 1:1-9.

 Advent Week 2 – Dec 7 – New Things 

 Reading: Mark 1:1-8

 Santons in the Church Advent week 2:

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 Leader brings a dish or large cup and place in manger scene. Provide a plastic shot glass of water for each person and print ‘Santons in the home’ for each person.

 It is hard to imagine the coming of Jesus and the Holy Spirit into our human experience, into our history. Our reading from Mark today shows us that such an amazing new thing was announced by a wild and wonderful man. He offered one type of cleansing but Jesus and the Spirit were about to bring something altogether new.

This is the second week of our ‘santon’ Nativity scene. As a church community we ask ourselves ‘Who do we welcome to the manger?’ Today we add to our nativity scene by inviting those who may be new to our lives or those who aren’t so new but where a new relationship might be growing. People God may be drawing us closer to.

We ask the Spirit to remind us of a new relationship in our lives that we want to bring to this manger of hope. Consider them as you pour some water into this cup here at the manger. As you pour this water you are praying welcome for them.

 Santons in the Home Advent week 2

Offer a drink to God this week, be mindful and prayerful as you pour it, bottle it or buy it for yourself or others. May it be a blessing to a new relationship in your life. May they know that Christ is near, Hope is near, Love is near with every sip.

To read at home: Psalm 85:1-2,8-13.

 Advent week 3 – Dec 14 – Hope here with us

 Reading: John 1:6-28 

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Santons in the Church Advent week 3:

 Leader brings a basket and places it in the manger scene. Provide a small flower for each person and print ‘Santons in the home’ for each person.

 Gods ways of love and provision spring up gently around us. Our reading from John today shows us that through the daily kindness of Jesus we saw the truth of God. Daily we see the truth and provision of God, in kindness, in faithfulness and service.

This is the third week of our ‘santon’ Nativity scene. As a church community we ask ourselves ‘Who do we welcome to the manger?’ Today we add to our nativity scene by inviting those from our daily life who serve us with kindness and faithfulness. Our trolley pushers, our coffee pourers, our librarians, our teachers, farmers and check-out workers. People who bless us in service.

We ask the Spirit to remind us of someone who serves us that we may take for granted, who we want to bring to this manger of hope. Consider them as you place a flower in this basket here at the manger. As you place the flower you are praying welcome for them.

 Santons in the Home Advent week 3

Offer a good thing from your life to God this week. It might be books from the library, a coffee, nice fruit, a full wardrobe, a good education. Consider this thing, be mindful and prayerful as you enjoy it and be open to how you might bless those who made it possible for you to enjoy it. May it be a blessing to a person who serves in your life. May they know that Christ is near, Hope is near, Love is near with your appreciation.

To read at home: Isaiah 61:1-4,8-11.

 Advent week 4 – Dec 21 – A song I sing

Reading: Luke 1:47-55.  

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 Santons in the Church Advent Week 4

 Leader brings a violin case or instrument case and place it in the manger scene. Provide a small piece of paper with “Then He appeared and the Soul felt it’s worth” written on it for each person and print of ‘Santons in the home’ for each person.

 We worship a God of justice. Our reading from Luke today is a song that shows us that God brings mercy to everyone who worships Him. God uses his power to bring justice from high places and thrones to low places where there is hunger and thirst. We rejoice in being a part of this song of love in the world.

This is the fourth week of our ‘Santon’ Nativity scene. As a church community we ask ourselves ‘Who do we welcome to the manger?’ Today we add to our nativity scene by inviting those on our hearts who thirst for God’s justice and provision. People who feel forgotten, estranged, desperate, unable to manage.

We ask the Spirit to remind us of someone or some people who need God’s mercy, welcome and justice. Consider them as you place a song here in the violin case at the manger. As you bring the song you are praying welcome for them.

 Santons in the Home Advent Week 4

Offer a song to God this week, be mindful and prayerful as you listen to it, sing it or write it. May it be a moment that draws yourself and those who you pray justice for into God’s presence. Listen to anything God sings back to you. May they know that Christ is near, Hope is near, Love is near with every note.

To read at home: Psalm 89:1-18

 Christmas Day – Dec 25 – Here is Peace

 Reading: Luke 2:1-20

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Santons in the Church Christmas Day

 Leader brings a cloth and place it in the manger scene. Provide a small piece of paper cut out as a person and a pen for each person and print of ‘Santons in the home’ for each person.

 Our reading from Luke today is a noisy, smelly and colourful gathering around the birth of a child. The shepherds considered outcasts, exhausted family and animals all gathered in wonder, surprise and confusion around this tiny baby, this fragile gift to the universe.

This is the fifth week of our ‘santon’ Nativity scene.  As a church community we have been asking ourselves ‘Who do we welcome to the manger?’ To this place of hope. Today we add to our nativity scene by bringing ourselves. We come here to celebrate something we will never fully understand but something we desire to draw close to in some way anyhow.

We ask the Spirit to take our wonder and blessings to God this morning as we draw a picture of ourselves. Bring this picture of you and place it on the cloth at the manger. Everyone is welcome, from the angels to the animals to the birth of something wonderful.

 Santons in the Home Christmas Week

Offer God your arms this week. Arms that are perhaps tired from all the responsibilities of this season.

Be mindful and prayerful as you sit for a moment with your arms at rest. Picture all the people your arms have to care for or things they have to do for others. Be open to God’s blessing and arms holding you.

May you know that Christ is near, Hope is near, Love is near with every breath.

Read: Hebrews 2:5-12

 Christmas 1 – Dec 28 – Lights

 Reading: Luke 2:22-40

Santons in the Church Christmas 1

 Leader brings a book cover and place it in the manger scene. Provide a small piece of paper that fits in the book and a pen for each person and print ‘Santons in the home’ for each person.

 Jesus with us causes some to fall, some to kneel and some to stand. Our reading from Luke today shows us the amazing faith of our Christian family. A people who have been passing down to us all that they have seen of God with their own eyes. The bible and other writings of faithful Christians are a treasure for us. A light to us.

This is the sixth and final week of our ‘santon’ Nativity scene. As a church community we have been asking ourselves, ‘Who do we welcome to the manger?’ Today we finish our nativity scene by bringing saints of the past and present who have been faithful in passing on God’s word to us. We ask the Spirit to remind us of someone or some people who have been teachers and role models to us in our Christian journey. Those who have shown us how to follow Jesus, who have encouraged us.

Consider them as you write their name or draw them on a page and place it here at the manger. As you place the page here in the book you are praying blessing and thanks for those who have welcomed you here, to this place of hope.

 Santons in the Home Christmas 1

 Offer a time of reading to God this week, be mindful and prayerful as you set some time apart to read a passage or part of a book that has been an encouragement to your faith in the past. May it be a moment that draws you into God’s presence and brings you close to the Saints who been light to you. Be open to where your light may shine this week. May the Earth know that Christ is near, Hope is near, Love is near with every star above them.

To read at home: Psalm 148. 

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