By Carl Stagner
The first Church of God movement-wide unity experience known as Christ’s Birthday Observance took place in 1949. Seven decades later, the Church of God initiative organized by Christian Women Connection is still equipping congregations across North America and beyond, mobilizing the collective support of the movement for the advancement of the kingdom globally, and moving our hearts and minds to the manger. This time of year, Church of God pastors, music ministers, choirs, worship teams, and local CWC ministries are already busy preparing for the most wonderful time of the year. As Christ’s Birthday Observance 2019 materials hit church mailboxes late in the summer, Christmas planners have found practical tools and inspiration in a variety of new resources centered on the theme, “Good News! Experiencing the Genuine Jesus.”
As one of the longest continuously running traditions in the Church of God, congregations in the United States and Canada, in particular, have come to anticipate Christ’s Birthday Observance. The weekly lighting of the Advent candle and the associated readings have sparked wonder and worship during an otherwise hectic and commercialized season. Project Prayer has led churches around the world to pray together, often in twenty-four-hour blocks, on specific days during Advent, for the global ministries of the church. Throughout Advent, and often throughout the year, Christ’s Birthday Observance has prompted individuals to save money—often at significant sacrifice—to be given generously in the largest single offering in the Church of God on the Sunday immediately before Christmas. No other offering touches the length and breadth of the Church of God movement like this one—from the sending of missionaries to Trafficklight, from CBH to CWC—the Christ’s Birthday Observance offering annually yields a real, lasting effect on the kingdom.
Christian Women Connection has issued four primarily goals for this year’s brand-new Christ’s Birthday Observance: 1) Engage culture by increasing the number of people presented with Jesus during the season; 2) Enrich the church community by offering compelling and relevant seasonal tools for church life; 3) Extend the clock for pastors by providing a fully planned program to help de-stress Christmas; and 4) Raise over $800,000 to accelerate the spread of the Good News throughout the world.
To help the Church of God reach these goals, CWC has made available an incredibly wide variety of brand-new resources, many of which have already been mailed to all our churches. Numerous pastors have found sermon starters of years past to be helpful for their weekly message prep but, new this year, a regional pastor cluster has collectively developed full-length sermons, sermon outlines, supporting media, children’s lessons, and small group materials. Besides Advent readings and sample sermons (including one by Church of God Ministries’ general director Jim Lyon!), a worship service guide, social media material, and PowerPoint tools are all a few clicks away at www.christianwomenconnection.org/2019-cbo.
Kayla Robinson Harden, ministry coordinator of programming for CWC, reflects on Advent with the following words: “It seems that everywhere we turn, we are confronted with bad news. Natural disasters, violence, hatred, and other evils consume our news and social media feeds. There are many days when our circumstances seem hopeless with darkness closing in all around us. For Christians, Advent is a season of waiting. As Christians we know that this bad news is not all there is. We realize that Christ’s birth is the Good News the world was waiting for.”
So, worship in the waiting. Adore him in the anticipation. And, don’t forget to prepare for an Advent that will leave an indelible mark on you and your congregation. After all, it’s not easy to remain the same after experiencing the genuine Jesus. That’s what Christ’s Birthday Observance 2019 is all about.