What are you expecting from your students' Christmas break?
Advent is traditionally a time of waiting, of anticipation, and whilst frantic on the present-buying, plan-making side, we may also find ourselves slipping, spiritually, into a slowness, a leaning-back. This is a really important part of our faith rhythms - sabbath, being, stillness - but it’s not the only way to wait. The Christmas story involves a lot of waiting and it involves a lot of pursuit of that for which the characters wait. Mary was nine months pregnant and yet made an epic journey (or who knows, maybe she was only 8 months pregnant - a journey like that has got to be enough to kickstart an early labour!) They knocked from door to door, searching, knowing that they were looking for the place in which their son would be born. The Magi travelled from afar, the shepherds leapt to their feet and responded with glee to the angels’ song...Christmas is a time of waiting but it’s also a time of responding to and pursuing the fulfillment of that which we anticipate.
When we are anticipating this season for our students, do we see it as one that’s potent with fruitfulness, with response? Is it a couple of weeks time off, dead-time in the world of student mission, before everything kicks off again in January? Are we expecting, mixed in with the rest, to hear stories of God at work over Christmas - not just stories of waiting on God, but of God showing up - of friends who have responded to the message of Jesus over the Christmas break, of parents sharing in a Christmas service with their student son or daughter who has discovered church at uni, of reconciled relationships, of growing hope, of new rhythms of being in scripture and in prayer that students have been trying to crack all term and finally found new life in over this break? What are the stories we're anticipating hearing when they return?
Why shouldn’t this next month be the most fruitful month yet of these students’ uni year? Might the time when God came as near as he ever had, be the time he comes nearest to them, and what would that look like?
If that is our hope, our anticipation, even our expectation, what does that change about how we encourage, equip and resource our students now they've headed home? Does it change the kind of communication we’re expecting to have with them over Christmas? Does it impact the attitude with which we ask the questions ‘Who is still here on campus? Who didn’t get to go home and how can we serve them?’ What resources do we need to put into students’ hands, what rhythms can we be encouraging them to join in, what prayers are we praying for them in this season in light of what we are thinking God might do?
I asked some student workers what they would love to see in this season, here’s some of what they said:
‘I’d love to see the relationships students have with their uni housemates go beyond the uni context and to continue to be pursued and deepen across the Christmas break’.
‘I’d love to see groups of students studying the bible together, even over Zoom, or students studying the bible with their families at home’.
‘We’ve had a few students get in touch off the back of our advent social media campaign to ask about joining church once they come back in January, I’d love to see 10-15 students responding in that way by the end of the Christmas break’.
What would you love to see? What’s God inviting you to pray and to do as a part of seeing that come to pass?