Local churches all over the country will be welcoming their communities – onsite and online – to celebrate and share the good news of Christ’s birth with special services and events, supported by a wide range of national resources and support.
But Mary treasured all these words Luke 2.19
and pondered them in her heart.
In 2020, many of us experienced a Christmas when so many of the ways we traditionally mark the season were suddenly denied to us.
This year, of course, we hope and pray that many of the familiar experiences that help Christmas come alive return to our homes, our churches and communities. But whatever else December brings, it will offer us an opportunity to enter more deeply into the joyful mystery that lies at its heart: God becoming human in the birth of Jesus Christ.
Inspired by readings from the Gospels of Luke and John read at so many Christmas services, At the heart of Christmas is an invitation to everyone to discover – or rediscover – the good news of God’s saving love as revealed in the birth of Jesus. It is also a challenge to each of us to ponder in our hearts – as Mary did – what the extraordinary events of the first Christmas might mean for us now and in the years ahead.
At the heart of Christmas is a deliberately simple and open theme – one that we hope can be used by local churches to invite their communities to share in celebrating the good news of Christmas in a whole variety of ways, whatever the prevailing circumstances.
The message is designed to work alongside a wide range of local, diocesan and national initiatives and activities – supporting and highlighting the many ways churches help their communities connect with the heart of Christmas through thick and thin, year in, year out.
No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, John 1.18
who is close to the Father’s heart,
who has made him known.
What are the key elements of At the heart of Christmas?
As in previous years, the national Church will work with dioceses and churches to make a range of digital and print content available, branded with the At the heart of Christmas theme:
At the heart of Christmas will consist of 12 Stories and Meditations from Justin Welby, Stephen Cottrell and guests where they will share personal stories exploring themes close to the heart of Christmas.
Starting on Christmas Eve and continuing daily (Monday to Saturday) until the Epiphany (6 January), At the Heart of Christmas: 12 Days of stories and meditations for Christmas will help you make space for that exploration. On each of the twelve days, a different contributor will share something that lies close to the heart of Christmas for them, bringing the theme to life through a mixture of personal story, Bible reading, reflection and questions to ponder.
These reflections will also be made available freely via:
- app with accompanying resources for children and families
- the Church House Publishing Booklet, available by late September, along with other shareable print resources (free mailing to clergy).
Daily Advent reflections will be also available Monday to Saturday for those who want them via the app with audio. The content will explore the Advent Morning Prayer readings from Matthew’s Gospel and feature content from Reflections for Daily Prayer by Stephen Cottrell and Guli Francis-Dehqani. The Church House Publishing booklet Reflections for Advent 2021 will be available by the end of August, with content also shared free digitally including audio
National online services for Advent and Christmas
In collaboration with a range of Christian charities and organisations, we will produce online services for the Sundays of Advent and Christmas. This will include an online service for each Sunday of Advent, The weekly online services have been very well received on social media and continue to attract a diverse audience including regular churchgoers, people exploring faith across a wide age range. They will all be broadcast on the Church's YouTube channel and Facebook page.
Bookmarks, prayer cards, family prayer cards and booklets are available for churches to purchase, as in previous years. Booklets are available as a single copy and booklets, bookmarks and prayer cards are all available in packs of 10 and 50. Booklets are also available in large print.
A Church Near You
In Advent and Christmas, we will encourage churches to list the full range of church buildings (where permissible) and online services taking place. Last year, AChurchNearYou.com received 77 million page views, and 80 per cent of visitors were on the site for the first time.
As well as promoting services, A Church Near You editors can also access the Resource Hub, which will provide a range of free resources, such as customisable videos, social media graphics and approaches to online giving.
Downloadable hymns are also available on the Hub for all Church of England churches to use for free. We will be sharing music from across the traditions that churches can use as part of online and in-person services and events. This will be available through the Resource Hub, where music has already been downloaded more than 274,000 times, thanks to the partnership with St Martin-in-the-Fields and Royal School of Church Music (RSCM).
DailyHope is a free phone number (0800 804 8044) offering music, prayers and reflections as well as full worship services from the Church of England at the end of a telephone line. We are delighted that the At the heart of Christmas reflections, services and some of the music will also be available throughout Advent and Christmas. This will enable as many people as possible to access the content we are developing.
Watch this webinar and discover the range of invitational resources available to churches this year and tips for making the most of your digital presence at Christmas time.
This webinar was live and has been recorded.
What to look out for...
- Webinars and blogs to help churches implement the resources
- Family resources will be available throughout Advent
- Full list of services in November, complete with themes and contributors to help with promotion
- Assets made available on the Resource Hub ahead of the campaign to allow churches time to plan
- A full timeline for the content in the coming weeks...
- Red - #a6054c
- Peach - #cc6d6c
- Jade - #3d6b73
The Bely Display font can be accessed through the Adobe Font package with a Creative Cloud license.
Alternatively, for a free similar font Playfair Display Bold 700 can be used.
Please note all other resources and downloads will be made available via the A Church Near You Resource Hub.