Online Advent resources with a difference

Christ Church, Oxford, ‘unwrapped’ in online Advent Calendar

Christ Church is taking people behind the scenes to discover some of its secrets with an online Advent Calendar to ‘open’ via social media.

Every day during Advent will feature a different door located somewhere in the college or Cathedral. While some of the 24 doors may be familiar to the city’s residents, others are distinctly more inconspicuous – and they all come with captivating stories offering an unparalleled insight into this historic part of Oxford.

Links in the Advent Doors social media posts will take readers to blog posts that reveal the secrets that lie behind them. The stories shed light on some of the characters who’ve lived in or been inspired by Christ Church, from monarchs and politicians to saints and writers, alongside clues about the rich histories of the buildings themselves, from the 12th-century Cathedral to the 20th-century Picture Gallery.

And viewers can expect a number of surprises along the way: doors that are not really doors, treasures lying behind seemingly innocuous entrances, and rooms and buildings that have changed use over nearly a thousand years of history.

Eleanor Sanger, College Communication Officer, said, “It’s been great working with the Cathedral to develop this project and reveal some of the fascinating stories that lie behind our walls.
“Christ Church is full of curiosities. There’s a huge wealth of history in our buildings, as well as some incredible people who’ve called Christ Church home over the centuries, so we’re really excited to be able to give people a sneak peek at some of the things that make Christ Church a unique place.”

Follow @ChCh_Oxford and @ChChCathedralOx on Twitter and like ‘Christ Church, Oxford’ on Facebook to open a new door of Christ Church’s advent calendar every day from 1 December.

‘Travelling Light’ in the run-up to Christmas

Christmas can be a stressful time. Many of us would like to get to Christmas feeling full of energy and a great sense of fulfilment, but instead we arrive absolutely frazzled, and it loses all meaning for us.

This Advent and Christmas, our friends at Discovering Prayer are running a programme called ‘Travelling Light’.

It’s a series of guided Christian prayer and meditations, to help you stay calm and focused in the run up to Christmas. If you’d like to enrol, you will receive three audio prayer times and a wealth of other information about ‘Travelling Light’ towards Christmas. You will also be travelling alongside a community of like-minded people who are desiring greater meaning.

The audio prayer times take their inspiration from the Magi, the wise people who travelled from the east. As they followed the star, they didn’t know really where that star was going to lead them, or indeed, really what was going to be at the end of it. Most of the time we journey through Christmas not really knowing what it’s about.

This year, let’s do things differently. Let’s travel a bit lighter towards Christmas, and let go of the things that don’t matter to make room for the things that do matter.
It is worth looking at the 25 tips that Discovering Prayer has gathered. There is something for everyone under five themes: uncovering the hidden meaning as you plan Christmas; sending mindful Christmas cards; giving presents and your presence; lightening the load, and sharing the joy.

Here are three examples:

• Taking time out to pray and spending time with God is a perfect antidote to the rush and consumerism of a modern Christmas. Prayer puts relationship first and gives you perspective. Taking just five minutes at a time can really help you return to yourself during the day. Taking just five minutes in the morning to be thankful and take part in a short meditation can really set you up for a good start to the day. If you don’t know how to meditate or pray you can start by listening to one of Discovering Prayer’s free audio prayer times.
• Giving less could mean giving more. Instead of giving so many presents, why not give your presence this Christmas? Spend your time and not your money, and focus on connecting rather than buying. Look for opportunities to do things with other people that create the Christmas feel, such as carol singing on the green, watching a nativity play, or having a home cinema night watching a classic Christmas movie.
• Simplify Simplify Simplify. Christmas isn’t in charge of you. You’re in charge of Christmas. You don’t have to do what the adverts tell you, or follow what everyone else is doing. Have yourself a merry little Christmas by doing and eating the things you enjoy. If curry is your favourite thing, have curry for Christmas lunch. If you enjoy bird watching, make the most of that hour of sunshine. Let each person in your house choose one thing to add to the mix. Or simply do nothing at all.

Whatever you do or don’t do, anyone can find out more about ‘Travelling Light’ and join the Discovering Prayer community here.