INTRODUCTION Session one is all about the first candle in the advent wreath. The first candle that is lit in the period of advent represents hope. Hope exists all around us and we will be using the first session to discover a little bit more about what hope is and how it can affect our lives. We will also be looking at some prophecies that were made about Jesus’ birth long before it happened. The prophecies gave the people of the Old Testament hope for the future and now that Jesus has come and fulfilled the prophecies that were made about Him, it gives us hope for the future. Through Jesus coming to earth, dying on the cross, and being resurrected on the 3rd day, our lives have been set free from sin and we have a hope for the future of joining Jesus in heaven. Wow! Session two will focus on Mary, the mother of Jesus and the love poured out to the world on that very first Christmas. We’ll walk in the footsteps of Mary as she was told that she would be the one to carry the son of God and we’ll consider the potential sacrifice that obedience to God’s will leads to. In keeping (no pun intended) with the theme of the advent wreath, session three is about the shepherds. Traditionally the third candle represents the shepherds, and so we will be looking at God’s decision to appear to the shepherds before the rest of mankind to notify the birth of his son, Jesus Christ. The candle also represents joy and we will delve into what it means to have real joy and how we can have a joy that overflows from us. ‘Glory to God on the highest and peace to all men’ they sang. In the fourth week of our material we will be exploring the Christmas story from the angels point of view and thinking a bit more on the theme of peace. The angels said that peace would come to all men – we look at how this is possible and what peace means for Christians. We hope this year you will use the material here to delve a little deeper into the minds of the well-known characters of the nativity and understand them a little bit more. May something new strike a chord with you this Christmas and may your study of the Christmas bring you into a closer and deeper relationship with our God.
celloutlines | overview
celloutlines | week one These Cell Outlines are written by ALOVE UK. They are available every month from our web site. For more information and other cell resources, visit alove.salvationarmy.org.uk
SESSION 1 WELCOME/ICEBREAKER i. Miss World Memory Game This is a game that tests your memory. It is a simple test of your memory. The person who is newest to the group starts first. They begin by saying ‘I’m Miss World and I hope…’ and then say something they hope for. (This can be an actual hope or something made up for the game!). The next person in the group then has to say what the last person said and add their own hopes – not forgetting to begin with ‘I’m Miss World and I hope…’ If somebody does not remember all of the hopes in order, then they are out. The game keeps going until only one person is left (or until a draw is declared by the youth leader!
ii. What is hope? Challenge the group to discuss what hope is. If your group struggle to get going use the following to help fuel the discussion What are the features of hope? What does hope look like? How does hope change people? Describe someone without any hope. What do they hope for? A good set of school grades? Hope to get onto a good university course? Hope to become better at sport/improve on their musical instrument? etc) Ask the group to come up with a definition of the word ‘hope’. If you are struggling, please find some definitions of the word hope below: ‘a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen’ ‘want something to happen or be the case.’
‘grounds for believing that something good may happen’ ‘a person or thing that may help or save someone.’ ‘to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence.’ ‘a person or thing in which expectations are centered’
WORD For the word section of this week’s cell material we are going to look at some of the prophecies that were made about Jesus’ birth. On the attached sheet, find a list of prophecies that were made in the Old Testament about Jesus’ birth and then the passage in the Bible that shows the prophesy fulfilled. (You may want to consider printing each verse, cut them up, and get the group to match the Old Testament prophecy to the New Testament fulfillment to make it a little more interactive.) Go through each of the fulfilled prophecies and consider how they could be fulfilled by a baby. Surely the only way they could be fulfilled would be via the will of God. Many prophecies were made about Jesus. It is perhaps fair to argue that some of the prophecies that were made could be fulfilled by a conman wanting to be regarded as God – however, that cannot be said of the Christmas story. It is only God who can choose where and how he is born. continued over u
celloutlines | week one (continued...) The apostle Paul, talks about what hope is in Romans 8:24-25 “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it”, According to the Holman Bible Dictionary, hope is a “trustful expectation, particularly with reference to the fulfillment of God’s promises. Hope, is the anticipation of a favorable outcome under God’s guidance... the confidence that what God has done for us in the past guarantees, our participation in what God will do in the future.” What a definition that is of hope! Hope is absolutely essential for us as Christians. We have hope for the future because of what God has done for us in the past (have a look at the introduction to this weeks cell on the introduction page). Paul talks about hope in the same way as if it were faith. We may not see what we are hoping for, but that should not stop us from hoping for it. We must believe that our hope is firmly rooted in God and that that will ultimately deliver us to Salvation. In the Old Testament, hope lay in the coming of the Messiah. Our hope is now in the 2nd coming of the Messiah. Be ready!
PRAYER What are our hopes for our Christian lives this advent/Christmas period? What do we want to get from it? Do we need God to renew our hope in Him? Consider: - What hope does God give us? How does that transform our lives? Do we know anybody without hope? How does that make us feel? Pray for them. You may want to print out the lyrics of the song ‘Jesus hope of the nations’ and give a copy to each member of your group to read through Jesus hope of the nations Jesus comfort for all who mourn You are the source of Heaven’s hope on earth
Jesus light in the darkness Jesus truth in each circumstance You are the source of Heaven’s light on earth In history You lived and died You broke the chains You rose to life
You are the hope living in us You are the rock in Whom we trust You are the light Shining for all the world to see You rose from the dead conquering fear Our Prince of Peace drawing us near Jesus our hope living for all who will receive Lord we believe
The song can be found here if your group would find it useful to listen to it whilst praying and reflecting: www.youtube.com/watch?v=GuK5fZ9Ur9c
ACTION/WORSHIP This week, think about how Jesus gives you hope. What does he give you hope to do? How does that hope transform what you do and who you are? Try and infect some other people with this hope. Perhaps invite someone who doesn’t attend church to one of your Christmas carol services this year and pray that they accept your invitation and accept God into their lives this Christmas time.
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DECEMBER 2013 celloutlines
celloutlines | week one (continued...) Prophecies about the Birth of Jesus 1. Promised Through the Seed of Abraham:
• Old Testament Prophecy: Genesis 22:18 • New Testament Fulfillment: Matthew 1:1
2. Promised Through Isaac:
• Old Testament Prophecy: Genesis 21:12 • New Testament Fulfillment: Luke 3:34
3. Out of the Tribe of Judah:
• Old Testament Prophecy: Micah 5:2 • New Testament Fulfillment: Luke 3:33
4. Born in the Family of Jesse:
• Old Testament Prophecy: Isaiah 11:1 • New Testament Fulfillment: Luke 3:32
5. Born in the House of David (King):
• Old Testament Prophecy: Jeremiah 23:5-6 • New Testament Fulfillment: Luke 3:31
6. Born in Bethlehem:
• Old Testament Prophecy: Micah 5:2 • New Testament Fulfillment: Luke 2:4-7
7. Born of a virgin:
• Old Testament Prophecy: Isaiah 7:14 • New Testament Fulfillment: Matthew 1:18/23
8. Worshipped and Presented gifts by Kings:
• Old Testament Prophecy: Psalm 72:10 • New Testament Fulfillment: Matthew 2:11
9. Worshipped by Shepherds:
• Old Testament Prophecy: Psalm 72:9 • New Testament Fulfillment: Luke 2:9
10. Weeping for the Children:
• Old Testament Prophecy: Jeremiah 31:15 • New Testament Fulfillment: Matthew 2:16
11. Flight to Egypt:
• Old Testament Prophecy: Hosea 11:1 • New Testament Fulfillment: Matthew 2:13-14
12. He will be called Lord:
• Old Testament Prophecy: Psalm 110:1 • New Testament Fulfillment: Luke 2:11
13. He is the Son of God:
• Old Testament Prophecy: Psalm 2:7 • New Testament Fulfillment: Luke 3:22 (Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11)
celloutlines | week two These Cell Outlines are written by ALOVE UK. They are available every month from our web site. For more information and other cell resources, visit alove.salvationarmy.org.uk
MARY DID YOU KNOW…? ICEBREAKER/WELCOME Have the characters of the nativity set to hand (either on paper, or better still – little figures from a nativity set). Ask each member of the group to pick a character (the same character can be picked twice if your group is big enough!). Take a few minutes to allow the group to describe what each of these characters must have felt during the first Christmas. After you have been around all of the group and have covered all of the characters, put the characters back in the middle of you all and ask all of your group one by one to take the character that best describes them right now and explain why. After each persons turn, ask them to return the character to the middle in case another member of the group would like to use the same character to describe themselves. (This may be an icebreaker that you may consider repeating in a later session to see if everyone still relates to the same character and if they have thought any further about the characters in the nativity.)
WORD/DISCUSSION Familiarise yourself with the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus.
The Birth of Jesus Foretold 26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Try to sum up how you would feel if an angel appeared to you and told you, you were were going to parent God’s son. Mary was between 12-16 (which was a common age to be engaged to be wed). Ask the group to think about how Mary would have felt. Would you have as willingly accepted this task? It is worth considering that whilst Mary had to carry Jesus physically through pregnancy, we are all asked to carry Jesus inside us through our lives and love him unconditionally as he does us. Do we willingly accept like Mary did? Being young and lacking in life experience, we are often led to believe that Mary was a scared and worried figure. Verse 29 says that Mary was greatly troubled. It was not the presence of the angel that troubled Mary but the words that Gabriel spoke. And yet if we read on in the book of Luke, it shows us the song that Mary wrote continued over u
celloutlines | week two (continued...) which perhaps suggests that she wasn’t the scared and worried figure that we so often associate with her. Take a minute to read through that now. Luke 1:46-56: Mary was such a willing servant to God’s will, that even if she was initially scared, she still rejoiced in the fact that by God’s grace, she had been chosen for this special role in God’s plan. It is important to note that it was through God’s grace and not through anything that Mary had done which led to her being chosen. Let’s put ourselves in Mary’s shoes again. Imagine trying to explain what had happened to your friends, family, partner etc. Mary had a) no guarantees that anybody else would believe her, and b) only had her faith to suggest that what she was told would actually come true. However, she accepted the consequences of being the vessel for Jesus. She knew that it wasn’t about her and that her obedience may mean sacrifice in other parts of her life. She risked ridicule, she risked rejection from Joseph and her family/community, she risked having her lowly young life being turned upside down and changed forever, and yet, because she was intent on being obedient to God none of this potential sacrifice mattered. Whilst it is difficult to imagine what Mary went through, it is easy to appreciate her obedience to God’s will which is something we can all learn from. Jesus also suffered, as he was obedient to God’s calling – most notably through His crucifixion. He says in Luke 22:42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Obedience to God’s will is not about our will. Mary didn’t agree to God’s plans because it fit into her own will. She didn’t do it so she would go down in history as the mother of Jesus or to give herself increased power and stature. She simply submitted to the will of God. Things to think about: What do you think God would ask you to do that would be a step too far for you? What is your limit of obedience for Him? What things in your life would you risk sacrificing in order to be obedient to God’s will? If you are willing to sacrifice it – is that sacrifice at all? How do you think your will is different to God’s will for your life right now?
PRAYER Meditate on the verse: “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Spend some time in prayer committing yourselves to God as His servant. Use the below SA song words based on Isaiah 6:8 to help focus your thoughts on obedience. If you think it would be useful to your group, have the song played. (We have found it on YouTube – www.youtube.com/ watch?v=ax_zXzOKiPc – but you may have it on CD somewhere.) Here Am I my Lord, Send me. See how the world groans beneath sins spell, Lord who will go? Lord who will go? Someone must care for them, someone tell, Tell of Christ, tell of his pow’r, to set men free.
How can I go with my sin and shame? Great God on high, Lord who am I? Cleansed now my heart, with the living flame, Make me pure, oh make me strong, Lord I will go!
Here am I my Lord, Send me, send me, I am wanting to be what you want me to be. Use me when and wherever and how you best see, Here am I my Lord, send me!
Make me a servant to serve just you, Lord I’ll obey, use me I pray. Teach me to speak may my life ring true
celloutlines | week three These Cell Outlines are written by ALOVE UK. They are available every month from our web site. For more information and other cell resources, visit alove.salvationarmy.org.uk
WHILE SHEPHERDS WATCHED…GLAD TIDINGS OF GREAT JOY! Shepherds/Joy ICEBREAKER/WELCOME Watch this video showing a group of children tell the Christmas story: www.youtube.com/ watch?v=zTzXmzjH9ZM
WORD The following will be a familiar passage to the entire group and will have been read at almost every carol service you have ever attended. Read together Luke 2:8-12 “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” This week we will be focusing our thoughts on the shepherds from the Christmas story. Why do you think God chose to get the message about Jesus’ birth to the shepherds before anybody else? What does it teach us?
Find below some thoughts to help you discuss the Shepherds part in the Christmas story and also what real joy is: Shepherds were on the very lowest rung of society – they were dirty, poor, disrespected. The well-known parody of the song ‘While Shepherds washed their socks by night’ couldn’t have been further from the truth. In all honesty, they probably did very little washing indeed! They simply existed to tend to the sheep, and not growing prize winning lambs and selling them for meat or selling their wool on for good profits. Sheep were mostly used for sacrifice and so shepherds spent their lives looking after creatures who were ultimately just going to be killed as sacrifice. It was a very dangerous job as they were often out in the dark wilderness and therefore faced attack from wild animals. So it seems strange that God would choose to send the angels to the shepherds before anybody else to announce the birth of Jesus. And yet this exemplified how the Savior of the world would treat his people – the first shall be the last and the last shall be first. See if your group can think of any stories from Jesus’ ministry where he demonstrates this premise of the first being last and the last being first. Jesus considered Shepherds to be very important in society. Matthew 9:36 says ‘When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.’ Look at the reason as to why Jesus ‘had compassion on them’. It was because the people were helpless and aimless like sheep without a shepherd. Many of us are lost and aimless like a sheep without a shepherd and we need to acknowledge that we need a shepherd (Jesus) in our lives for us to experience joy. Take a minute to discuss the difference between joy and happiness. Perhaps ask everyone to split an A4 page in half and on one half write the characteristics of happiness and on the other half the characteristics of joy. Then get everyone to feedback. continued over u
celloutlines | week three (continued...) That night in the fields, the shepherds were filled with joy. As mentioned previously - they were regarded as the lowest in society, they had very few possessions and lived a poor and dirty life – yet they were filled with joy. That’s because joy -- unlike happiness -- isn’t dependent on the circumstances and environment around you. The miracle of joy is that you can experience it no matter what your life is like. Everyone wants to experience joy but it can seem like it is always out of reach if you confuse it with happiness. Happiness is just a temporary feeling that’s tied to positive circumstances. Joy, however, is a lasting gift that remains with you, even when you suffer sadness or go through tough circumstances. Joy is found in the reality that we can have a personal relationship with God and that God is always present with you, no matter what. Deuteronomy 31:6 of the Bible declares: “… for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” To end your discussion Share Luke 2:17 together. It says this “When [the shepherds] had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told to them about this child”. Perhaps this is another reason why it was the shepherds who were told first. They were willing to leave what they had and spread the word about what had been told to them. Are we filled a joy that compels us to go and spread the word? If not, what would we need to see/experience in order for this to be the case?
PRAYER Jesus, Help me to see people through your eyes today. Help me to interact with them at the level of their need. Help me to provide the guidance and encouragement they need. Help me to be a good shepherd of those within my care. In Jesus’ Name, Amen
ACTION/WORSHIP In John 7:38 it says this: ‘Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me this way.’ We simply need to believe in God and believe that Jesus is the messiah. This should be all that gives us the joy that the shepherds had. This should be the thing that gives us the urge to spread the word. If we believed this there should be nothing that stops rivers of living water brimming and spilling out of the depths of us, and yet so often our lives don’t show this living water spilling out of us. Why do you think that is? Discuss the possible reasons for this and spend some time thinking and praying about this.
DECEMBER 2013 celloutlines
celloutlines | week four These Cell Outlines are written by ALOVE UK. They are available every month from our web site. For more information and other cell resources, visit alove.salvationarmy.org.uk
‘AND ON EARTH PEACE TO THOSE ON WHOM HIS FAVOR RESTS.’ WELCOME/ICEBREAKER Watch the video titled ‘An unexpected Christmas’ to get an insight as to how the angels felt about the nativity: www.youtube.com/watch?v=TM1XusYVqNY
WORD Rarely do we give much thought as to what the Nativity meant to the angels. The phrase ‘was seen by angels’ in 1 Timothy 3:16 invites us to view the whole of the story through their eyes. The video you watched as part of the icebreaker gives us a little insight (although not absolutely biblically accurate!) as to how the angels may have reacted to God’s plan to send Jesus to us. Spend a couple of minutes thinking about their reaction. Sum up the different emotions that the angels went through whilst God was outlining his plans. i.e. confusion, surprise, excitement, etc. The angels sang to the shepherds (Luke 2:14) and told them that the baby born in Bethlehem that night would bring peace to the world. You may have heard of the Jewish word ‘Shalom’. The word is commonly misunderstood and we often believe that it means peace. It does of course mean peace, but is much more than just the absence of war or the lack of noise. Shalom is a ‘wholeness or completeness throughout all creation.’ It talks about better times. It meant the end of injustice. It meant the rich would no longer devour the poor. It meant all brokenness would be set right and healed. It meant that people would love one another. For the Jews, the hope of shalom was wrapped up in a person. Someone is coming, they believed, who will open the door to peace. Who is this bearer of Shalom? Where will he come from? For Christians advent answers those questions. Our “Shalom” or peace comes through Jesus. Isaiah 9:6 describes Jesus as the ‘Prince of Peace’. Unfortunately for Jews this isn’t the case – Jesus did not answer the questions for them, and so they remain waiting for their Messiah. Discuss with your group some of the things that they were perhaps expecting from the Messiah. How does your group know that the Messiah has already come? Encourage them to share how the peace of God has been evident in their own lives. Where has God set right brokenness in their lives? Where has God helped overturn injustice? Advent and Christmas gives us the opportunity to assess how ‘Shalom’ is being lived out in your church and communities. Perhaps you consider your church a mostly peaceful place. It doesn’t contain (many) conflicts and people are not at war with each other (although we are all human and disputes can happen!). However, as mentioned above, shalom is about more than absence of conflict. It is about inner peace. Does your church have inner peace? Reflect on that for a minute. Is there complete justice where you are? Are people forgiving and loving? If not, what can you do to set that right? How can you reflect shalom in your life and model the behavior of shalom to the rest of your church/community (Romans 12:8)?
PRAYER Hebrews 13:20-21 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
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ACTION/WORSHIP Listen to the song by Tim Hughes – The Beauty of your Peace www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2SGjX3iHK4 Spend some time in prayer together considering how you can bring peace to your church this Christmas time. Pray into situations that need God’s peace. These can be personal situations, local situations or even further afield such as wordly issues. Perhaps have some pictures of things to help direct the group’s thoughts in the prayer time.
celloutlines | week four (continued...)