Messy Advent Waiting

Archive for Advent

Messy Advent Waiting

By Roberta J. Egli 

Messy Advent Blessing

May the stories you tell, the people you meet, the ways you fill your days during this season bring you closer to Bethlehem. May your heart be full of kindness and compassion, may you say thank you and I’m sorry often. May you find the courage to be brave like Mary, to say yes to God wherever God is calling you, remembering that on your journey, there will be darkness and there will be light, but that God is always with you. Amen

~Aaron Jenkyn, Epiphany Messy Church, Newport, NH

Little did I expect that this Advent reflection would still be on my computer three weeks later. The plan was to send it out at the beginning of Advent but December has not gone according to my plan. The goals for December was to confirm Messy Church trainings for 2020, intensively plan the web registration for the Celebrate the Mess conference in October 2020 and to clean up my files that have been out of control since September.

However, life happened and much of my time these past several weeks have been spent waiting. Waiting in an emergency room with my husband for five hours for him to be seen for a worsening toe infection. Waiting to get results of an MRI to see if the infection was included the bone. Waiting for a ‘real room’ in the hospital rather than the no-window dreary observation room. Waiting for the advice of medical specialists for treatment. Waiting for the surgeon to walk through the recovery room doors to give me the results of his surgery. Waiting for the order that Lynn could go home. One thing I have learned is that I am not very good at waiting! 

Waiting is difficult. Advent is a season of waiting.  Was there some hidden Advent message in all of the waiting these past weeks? 

Lynn is at home now and recovering well. Life is beginning to resemble our normal daily rhythm. I now have the time and energy to reflect a bit on what I have learned through waiting this Advent.

  • God is with us as we wait. The Spirit of God is as close as our breath.  When I became anxious and impatient as I waited, I remembered to take a deep breath in and out. Simply focusing and praying with my breath helped to center me and remind me that God was present in all of the waiting. As the Advent blessing from quoted above, “…on your journey, there will be darkness and there will be light, but that God is always with you.”
  • Waiting creates community. We had been sent to the Emergency Room by Lynn’s physician so we thought we would receive care soon after arriving. However, we waited for five hours and created community with all of the patients and families who were waiting. I heard stories and connected with a diverse group of people. We became the waiting community who kept inviting others to join in through sharing their stories as they awaited care. Telling our stories is how community is formed. I wonder how we share stories in our Messy Churches as we form community.
  • Waiting brings unexpected gifts. I was reminded of all of the many new friends Messy Church has brought into my life through all the global Facebook messages we received. Knowing that friends all over the world were praying for us brought us joy as we waited. We were forced to slow down from our busy lives for several weeks. This new pace has brought a new appreciation of the true gifts of Christmas.
Advent # 3

I invite you to take a moment to pause in your busy day as you prepare for Christmas. Breath in God’s love…Breathe out your request.

Pause and once again slowly read the Advent Blessing from Aaron Jenkyn.

May the stories you tell, the people you meet, the ways you fill your days during this season bring you closer to Bethlehem.

May your heart be full of kindness and compassion, may you say thank you and I’m sorry often.

May you find the courage to be brave like Mary, to say yes to God wherever God is calling you, remembering that on your journey, there will be darkness and there will be light, but that God is always with you.


May you experience God’s presence in unexpected places today.

Grace and peace,

Messy Church USA logo and mission
Equipping Messy Churches to start, sustain and connect across the USA

Messy Advent Resources

How are you preparing for advent at your Messy Church?

Sheep Trails, family advent wreaths, a coloring nativity and much more. Sometimes you may become overwhelmed with advent Messy Church opportunities. Johannah Myers, North and South Carolina Regional Coordinator and Messy Church leader for Aldersgate UMC in Greenville, SC started a Messy Church Sheep trail in her community several years ago.  Read her previous post to learn all about it!   Sheep Trail 

Advent is a wonderful opportunity to connect your Messy Church community and your Sunday morning community.  Are their activities that are traditional for your Sunday worship that you can bring to Messy Church?

On our Messy Church team leaders FB group page, people have been sharing various ideas for advent. Leyla Wagner, from Community UMC in Huntington Beach, CA shared “Something that we like to do is a Reverse Advent Box. We have families decorate a box to take home. Each day of advent, the family puts something (typically canned food or hygiene product) into the box and then donates the entire box to a local Food Pantry or Charity. It’s a good way to make space for “God” in all the busyness of preparing for Christmas.  

Advent offers great opportunities to bridge the worship at Messy Church with at home family devotions.  Check out the links of Advent ideas below and make sure to check out our FB Messy Church team leaders group page. 

Advent Links

Advent in a Box Resource

  • Robin Cannon, the RC for Ohio and our social media consultant for Messy Church USA is a partner in Family Ministry Tools which have created a wonderful resource called- Advent in a Box  It is a pizza box filled with all-age devotions and activities to help families celebrate Advent and prepare for Christmas. We have created the devotions and activities for your church. You will need to print the materials, buy the supplies, and pack your boxes. Everything a family will need to do the activities will be in the box (aside from normal household supplies like markers and tape). 
  • You can order individually or per size of your church. Check it out here. 

From Building Faith (Virginia Theological Seminary ) Website

Ideas from Messy Church USA Team Leaders Page

Other Links

An Unexpected Gift

By Lindsey Goodyear

The beginning of December is usually a reminder for me to kick it into high gear and start Christmas shopping, dig up our Elf on the Shelf (Lord only knows where I stuck him from the previous year), and remember to give each of our boys their advent gift for those first 25 days while desperately trying to reiterate what the advent period is actually about. In the dictionary, advent is described as the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event. For my kids, advent means presents. We work hard to remind them that there is more to Christmas than gifts, but, in their defense, gift giving is a part of Christmas. We give gifts to family, the Wise Men brought gifts for Jesus, and, of course, His birth, continues to stand as the greatest gift God has ever given to us. See? Gifts everywhere!

All the obsession over giving and receiving gifts got me thinking about the gifts we give at Messy Church. I’d like to think that we, as a Messy Church team, give gifts to our congregation every month. They may not be the literal gifts wrapped in a bow, but gifts that have a deeper meaning. The gift of a place to feel safe, connected, understood, loved, and supported. The gift of our members making a connection with a particular story, song, or activity. The gift of our children finding an indisputable understanding of what God’s love means, in their life, as they grow. What I didn’t think about is the gifts we receive from the attendees, as well. That’s why, going into our event on the first Saturday of the month, I never expected the gift I’d come away with.

I walked into our Messy Advent event to see the beautiful face of my friend, Mel.  I was grateful to have met her through the United Methodist preschool where her daughter and my son attended.  Over the years, she had expressed wanting to come to Messy Church, but life sometimes gets in the way.  I was over the moon to see what she thought of her first Messy gathering.  Of course it was a whirlwind of a night and I didn’t get a chance to talk to her at the end of the evening.  However, the next morning I woke to one of the most beautiful and meaningful texts I had ever received.  The words she used to describe the feeling she got from attending Messy Church brought tears to my eyes.  I immediately asked if I could interview her for my blog and she graciously obliged.

Here are the unedited, kind words from my good friend, Mel:

Me: Tell me a little about yourself.

Mel: I’ve been a resident of Huntington Beach since 2000. I’m a single parent (didn’t start off that way, but life got “messy”) to one precious six year old girl.

Me: How did you hear about Messy Church?

Mel: We attended CUMC preschool and heard about it from friends. We’ve always been interested in going but hadn’t been able to schedule it until now.

Me: With many options for worship around here, what made you take a chance on Messy Church?

Mel: We knew a few people that were already attending and had heard good things. It kept coming up over the past few months from others who have attended and we realized we shouldn’t ignore it any longer. And so, we showed up!

Me: What was the theme of the Messy Church you attended?

Mel: We were at the December event which was all centered around Christmas and the birth of Jesus.

Me: What was the vibe upon entrance? What did you notice?

Mel: We were greeted by a lovely young woman who welcomed us and gave us a brown paper bag personalized in black sharpie.

Me: Anything that made you uncomfortable?

Mel: Nope. Everyone was nice.

Me: What was the most memorable moment for you?

Mel: Two things: Our time in the chapel and especially singing together. I loved the conversations I had with my daughter during the activities. She’s maturing in her faith.

Me: Was there anything missing? Something you wished you had more of?

Mel: Only because you are asking but perhaps a place to safely put your painted crafts while they are drying. I’m pretty sure we got blue paint on the wall. Sorry!

Me: What made Messy Church different than traditional church for you?

Mel: Everything about Messy Church is different than traditional church. I love that I never put my kid in some room and then went off to make small talk with other adults and their spouses. Just my daughter and I are my family. We’re not a traditional family but we are one. It was nice that we could stay together. Doing the crafts and activities gave us a chance to talk without distractions. I found myself asking her questions and explaining things to her in simple terms. Each activity was charming and offered a chance to talk about something different. There was so much to do and I was impressed by the sheer number of volunteers. It looked like a labor of love.

Lindsey and Leyla conveyed in about 10 minutes what some pastors require an hour for. “Jesus came into a messy world because He loves us.”

It reminded me that I could worship wherever I am, just as I am: messy.

Mel: (cont) There’s also something sweet about sharing a meal with families. That was one of the first meals I can remember in a long time that I sat down the entire time with my child. At home during meals, I’m up every few minutes, getting and cleaning things (and high fives to the genius who recognizes ranch is a necessity with pizza!). It was a very sweet touch to have table tents with conversation starters.

I appreciate that it took a lot of coordination and manpower to pull off this event. I was also moved by its simplicity. There were no “smoke and mirrors,” just love and consideration. It could have taken place in any of the past five decades. I was moved to be one of the many voices, singing to God, surrounded by candles, led by a single guitar. The message was short and sweet (the most powerful ideas usually are). Lindsey and Leyla conveyed in about 10 minutes what some pastors require an hour for. “Jesus came into a messy world because He loves us.”

It reminded me that I could worship wherever I am, just as I am: messy.

Me: Do you think you’ll attend Messy Church again?

Mel: I’ll 100% be returning. My daughter definitely wants to return. She loved it and I’ve already invited others!

Merry Christmas from our Messy family to yours!

Lindsey Goodyear blogs monthly for Messy Church USA. She is a Messy Church mom and leader at Community UMC in Huntington Beach, California.  You can reach her at


Celebrate the Light

By Casey Cross

Young Disciples Director of Hope Lutheran Church in Eagle, ID and member of the Messy Church USA Board of Directors

Single Lit Candle Used with Permission

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

John 1: 5

I’ve been finding myself taking a lot of night walks lately. Many people would think that’s crazy, especially with the weather in Idaho as cold as it’s been. I will admit, by the time I get to the end of my walk I am really looking forward to entering my warm house. But there is a bit of magic that happens on these night walks, a quickening in my spirit. When I look up at the clear, dark sky and let my eyes adjust, I realize things aren’t as dark as I initially thought. In fact, the stars seem to shine clearer and brighter than usual.

Maybe that’s the key? Doing something that isn’t just, “the usual.” When we put ourselves out there, sometimes even literally out there taking a night walk, we see things from a different perspective. When we try something that others would call unusual, we connect with ourselves in a new way, there is a quickening in our spirit that makes us feel more alive.

Darkness has a way of closing in on us, making us feel like darkness is all there is. It can be suffocating, scary, and empty. Darkness can feel big and all encompassing. Yet, there is hope in the stars. When I’m in an especially dark place in my walk all I need to do is look up. If I see even just one star, I am reminded where the true power lies. The real power is not in the enormity of darkness, but the clarity of a single fleck of light. Despite distance and the passage of time, this little light meets me where I stand. This little light is all I need to find my way through the darkness and to know I’m not alone.

This is the miracle of Advent, that in our darkest days of the year, in the most common moments of life, God shows up.The real power is not in the enormity of darkness, but the clarity of a single fleck of light.

So, maybe this is the key? I am constantly amazed by the wondrous gifts of God’s grace that surround us, especially in those things that seem most mundane in our daily lives. This is the miracle of Advent, that in our darkest days of the year, in the most common moments of life, God shows up.

Photo by Rev. Josh Clark, August 2018, Sisters, OR
Used with Permission

In order for transformation, both of these keys are needed. We need to put ourselves out there so that we can see what God is doing in the most simple of things. In these intersecting moments, we meet God in a new way and we are changed. It can feel like such a miracle that we cannot help but share it with others.

This is what I see when families try Messy Church for the first time. They hesitantly walk in, unsure of what to expect from this new thing, uncomfortable. By the end of our celebration time together, they are completely different people. Alive! Awake! Connected to the stories of God’s love for us in a real, tangible way. We move to our meal together, eating casseroles, sitting next to our new family members, and expectantly looking ahead to our next gathering together.

Like the stars, we can live as points of light in the darkness, shining, as a reminder that the darkness has not, does not, and will not overcome. God with us, Emmanuel.

Messy Sheep Trail

Johannah Myers, Regional Coordinator for North and South Carolina

In 2013 we were in our first months of Messy Church at Aldersgate UMC in Greenville, SC. Looking for a way to spread the word about Messy Church and make some connections with our larger community, we stumbled across a Messy Church in Liverpool, England and their annual Sheep Trail. (You can read more about the original Sheep Trail in Messy Nativity.) In true “we-don’t-know-what-we’re-doing-but-let’s-try-anyway” form, the Sheep Trail in Greenville, SC began!

We have plenty of people who crochet, but the sheep pattern provided in Messy Nativity was for knitting. After searching pattern books and the Internet, I found a sewing pattern for a stuffed sheep. A desperate plea went out for people willing to sew some sheep and soon the herd in my office grew (and grew and grew). Meanwhile we wrote up a request for stores, outlining our plan for the Trail and started walking up and down Main Street, looking for stores willing to give us a try. Nine stores downtown said yes. Throw in a couple of trees at the Festival of Trees willing to be hiding places for our sheep and we had our first Sheep Trail.

Sheep Trail with Aldersgate UMC
Greenville, South Carolina

Each participating store gets its very own sheep with a unique name. Many stores like to name their own sheep! The sheep is hidden in the store, keeping in mind that it’s mostly kids out hunting. The sheep’s nametag is clearly visible. We print Trail Cards (we also keep a printable version on our webpage) that includes a list of the participating stores and a place to record the sheep’s unique name. Find each sheep, record the name, and you’ve mastered the Sheep Trail! We put a basket at a couple of stores where people could turn in completed Trail Cards and be entered into a drawing for a prize at the end of the month. Our Trail runs throughout the month of December.

The first year, we invested in brochure holders. Our sheep were donated. We splurged a bit and had our Trail Cards professionally printed along with some signs marking participating stores. After the first year, the only real cost for us is printing the Trail Cards. With this minimal cost, we are able to reach hundreds of families. We go through anywhere between 300-400 brochures each year!

Sample of Brochures 

Our Trail Cards include information about our Messy Christmas, Aldersgate UMC’s Christmas Eve services and other worship opportunities. We also include the Christmas story, written in child-friendly language. We hope that everyone who participates in the Sheep Trail takes a moment to read the story and that the Trail gives families the opportunity to play together while remembering the true meaning of Christmas.

For more information about our Sheep Trail or to get an example of teh brochure email me at  Follow us on Instagram  and/ or follow us on Facebook.

Messy Blessings, Johannah

Johannah Myers

Prepare the Way!

By Johannah Myers, Regional Coordinator for North and South Carolina

Aldersgate UMC Messy Church Fall Festival 2018

The dust has settled from our Messy Church Fall Festival. Candy wrappers have been picked up and costumes stored away. In one way, we’re now free to turn our thoughts to gratitude and Thanksgiving. However, for those of us planning for Messy Church, it’s time to start planning for Advent and Messy Christmas.

Advent is a season of preparation. We prepare for the coming of our Messiah even as we remember and celebrate Jesus’ coming as a baby at Christmas. As Messy Church leaders, we’re charged to prepare for Messy Christmas celebrations but we can also help our families make space to prepare a way for Jesus, even during their busy December.

Consider providing Advent calendars at your November Messy Church. Look for a calendar that includes family activities or create your own. Invite families to create a Jesse Tree as a way of remembering Jesus’ family tree and marking the Advent season together. What about materials and instructions for making a simple Advent wreath? Provide the materials as a take-home during your November Messy Church so that families are ready when Advent begins on December 2nd 2018.

Help families create an Advent wreath by providing the materials as a take-home during your November Messy Church so that families are ready when Advent begins on December 2nd.

If your Messy Church has a Facebook page or other social media outlets, think about ways to use this social media to help families mark the Advent season. Create a unique hash-tag and invite families to post pictures of their Advent activities. Use social media as a community Advent calendar. 

Messy Advent Activity Links

Messy Christmas is a great resource for planning Messy Christmas or Messy Advent. It’s full of wonderful ideas for activities and celebrations. There is an older resource, Messy Nativity that is also available to purchase. Messy Nativity includes two ideas of projects to draw your whole community into the Messy Christmas spirit, beyond your monthly Messy Church.

The first three people to email Roberta Egli at  and request the book will get a free copy of Messy Christmas mailed to them.   

Advent and Christmas can be the busiest seasons complete with all the stress that goes along with the craziness. How can Messy Church help families find purpose in the midst of all the season’s comings and goings? 

Messy Church USA’s mission is to equip local churches to start, sustain and connect Messy Churches across the USA.  Be sure to register your Messy Church on our website. 

All Age Messy Activity

Robin Cannon from Deep Creek United Methodist Church, Chesapeake,VA

Wondering how to engage those teens and adults in Messy Church?  Robin shared their experience of creating all-age experiences at their Messy Church in Chesapeake, VA.  Thanks Robin for sharing your story!

Messy Stained Glass created by Deep Creek UMC, Chesapeake VA 

Messy Church Stained Glass 

Our mid-sized church launched Messy Church this past September. Our hope was that we would be able to make connections with the many families who are a part of our church’s preschool and day care ministries and who are not a part of a faith community. We have been thrilled by the response. We average around 80 people and every month we have new, young families join us! Our goal was to reach out to young families and provide for them a non-intimating faith building experience and we have seen that happening each month.

Teenagers inviting friends to join them for Messy Church – it is such a beautiful thing!

We have also experienced some results that we did not anticipate. In our Messy Church planning, we have tried to be intentional about planning activities and stations that teens and adults would also enjoy such as our “stained glass window” painting project. The result has been that we now also have a group of adults and teens that love Messy Church! Each month many of our activities are planned and led by teens. This has produced some very enthusiastic teenagers who love what they are doing and are regularly inviting their friends to join us! Teenagers inviting friends to join them for Messy Church – it is such a beautiful thing!

We have also been intentional about planning a missions/serving activity each month. Our adults really enjoy the opportunities to be doing things for others each month. Thus far we have decorated cookies that were given to teachers at a nearby school, packaged rice and beans for our Food Pantry, packed goodie bags that everyone took to hand out to people who are rarely thanked for what they do, made Christmas cards for sick children, and helped make shoes for children in Uganda through Sole Hope. It has been wonderful to see all ages working together to share the Light and Love of Jesus with others!

We love Messy Church and are so thankful for all the wonderful ideas that come from other Messy Churches all around the world!

How to Make Messy Stained Glass

  • We cut sheets of clear of cellophane (you can buy it in rolls like wrapping paper at Michael’s) the size of our glass doors and taped them over the glass using painters tape.
  • We projected the image we wanted and traced with a black sharpie.
  • We sectioned off the images using black electrical tape – to create sections and give it a stained glass feel.
  • We covered the floor with tarps and prayed that this project didn’t go very badly – what could go wrong painting the doors with acrylic paint in the church gathering space!?!
  • At our Let your Light Shine Messy Church, everyone painted! We used good acrylic paint (the artist kind that comes in tubes at Michael’s). I think this is key to bright colors and paint thick enough not dribble and make a big mess. All 8 of these doors got nearly finished at our Messy Church and they are big hit – we’ve had them up for nearly a month now. We did a little bit of touch up the day after Messy Church to finish a few spots up – but this truly was an inter-generational project with kids, teens and adults all working together!