When I went to write an Advent devotion book, I made a conscious decision to do something different; something more. (You can read more about it here: Something Different for Advent.)
And I also made a conscious decision to resource an individual rather than a small group. This is what I shared in the introduction:
We follow Jesus better when we follow him together. In order to consistently take next steps following Jesus you need other people on your rope, people on the journey with you.
And sometimes it’s good and helpful to spend some time in single player mode.
Even Jesus, who had his large group gatherings, his small group of 12, and his micro-small group of three—even Jesus regularly went off by himself to pray. He needed the support of Peter, James, and John; he loved his interaction with the Twelve. But sometimes he needed to be alone with the Father and filled with the Spirit.
Sometimes you need that, too.
The weeks leading up to Christmas and New Year seem to be some of the most hectic of the year! But you don’t want to miss the peace and joy you know Jesus wants to give you in this season.
With most small groups meeting only socially, it’s a perfect time to embark on a solo adventure in God’s Word. Some days will be busier than others; and if you miss a day or two, don’t feel guilty. Just get back to it. Jesus invites you to follow him through Christmas and into 2020 and beyond.
Today is a good day to take a small next step.
You, Follow Me: A Daily Discipleship Travel Log
for Advent/Christmas 2019
by Justin Rossow
I still think that core concept has some value. In my experience, the weeks surrounding Christmas are filled will so many rehearsals, parties, to-do lists, shopping trips, and get-togethers that the busyness of the season can overshadow the whole point. Adding the burden of a small group meeting on top of all the other activities on the calendar seems counter-productive. I am trying to be realistic, and one more meeting time seems like work to me rather than delight.
I don’t want to add burden to your Advent; I want to add delight. So the whole concept of single-player mode doesn’t negate the fact that we follow Jesus better when we follow him together; there just may be times or seasons when we need individual rather than team support.
I still think that’s all true. And I have had my concept of single player mode broadened in a wonderful way.
First of all, a friend actually asked if it was OK if she went through the material with some other people. She wanted to respect the whole “solo adventure” feel of the book, but she also wanted other people to be part of her Advent preparation.
I love that she asked; it showed care and respect. And of course the answer was of course! The more the merrier! We follow Jesus better when we follow him together!
The material in the book is designed for personal, individual growth; and nothing spurs on personal, individual growth like the support of a team.
A couple of days later, I saw another friend post an invitation on Facebook. “I’m gonna do this for Advent!” she said, “Anyone else wanna join me?”
It turns out, the woman who originally asked if it was acceptable to do an individual devotion with a group is leading a Facebook Pop-Up group just for Advent. And my other friend is not only getting on board, she is inviting others to join her.
Reading down the comments on her invitation post is pretty fun:
“I think this might just be what I need. “
“I have been wishing for something to get me into the word a little more. What a great answer!”
“Share this in the MOPS group!”
One of my favorite responses was a maybe, followed by a further invitation, “We could even get together on Friday mornings and add it to our chats!” with this gracious caveat: “No pressure. I’ll sit with you either way.”
As the author, of course it feels good to hear perfect strangers talk about your material that way. But more importantly, as a follower of Jesus, the group response to a resource geared to the individual drove home the point once again: We follow Jesus better when we follow him together.
Even when you are spending a focused time in individual meditation or prayer, that experience is deepened and supported by having other people on your rope.
Think of Jesus, who has just spent some time with his small group in the Upper Room on Maundy Thursday. His small group heads out to Gethsemane together, and what does Jesus do? He takes his three closest companions–the people in his inner circle or micro-small group–he takes Peter, James, and John with him into the olive grove.
They aren’t there to join Jesus for small group bible study: their job is to watch from a distance and pray. Jesus goes a little farther by himself, but he wants his team to support him even as he goes off by himself to pray.
It turns out, part of his suffering, part of his abandonment was the fact that even his closest friends let him down in his hour of need. But I think Jesus longed for their support and relationship even in the midst of the most personal and individual of his prayers.
And I think Jesus invites us to long for that, too. As you walk through Advent and Christmas and into the new year, you don’t walk alone, even when you are by yourself. We need other people on our discipleship journey, even when we go on a solo quest.
So who’s on your rope this Advent? Who will you invite to be on your Team Advent? Who will encourage you and support you and pray for you and process with you, even if you aren’t meeting in an official group at a regularly scheduled time?
It doesn’t have to be hard. “I’m planning on going to Wednesday worship this Advent: who wants to come with me?” “I’ll be reading through Luke in December: who’s in?” “I’m going to early service on Christmas Eve: anyone want to share a pew?”
Make a relational invitation to someone in your circle as you step into this busy time of year. You just might find that Team Advent will be a blessing to both of you. After all, we follow Jesus better when we follow him together.
Photo by Flo Maderebner from Pexels