Over the last few months the national Church of England digital team has worked with dioceses and people across the country on a new Advent and Christmas theme to reflect the current Covid context. Following these discussions they have developed the theme of 'Comfort and Joy'. It is felt that this will better enable reflect where the country is and will be by the end of this year. The following text is taken from its dedicated Comfort and Joy webpage.

Comfort and Joy  holds together the hope that Christmas will bring joy and celebration after a uniquely difficult year with an acknowledgement that – for those who have lost loved ones or livelihoods, or who are potentially still not able to be together with loved ones – it may be the Church’s role, both nationally and locally, to provide consolation, rather than assume everyone will be ready to join in jubilation. 

This Christmas the Church will need, in the words of St Paul in Romans 12.15, to ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep’. We will aim to celebrate where we can together in one place – but also embrace a wider community that wants to join in the celebration but may not be physically able – or emotionally ready – to do so. We hope that Comfort and Joy will enable us to build a campaign that both enables us to reconnect with the rich and joyous traditions of the past and to offer God’s consoling love in the present.

The key elements of the national campaign

The Church has partnered with a number of public figures to produce short reflections exploring the theme. Comfort and Joy: Nine Lessons and Carols for Christmas mirrors the structure of a traditional carol service, exploring both biblical texts and the words of much-loved Christmas carols.

The reflections for each day from Christmas Day to 2 January feature contributions from Kate Bottley, Jonathan Bryan, Bob Chilcott, Martha Collison, Stephen Cottrell, Guli Francis-Dehqani, Chine McDonald, Sally Phillips and Justin Welby. The booklet is introduced by the Archbishops and has been edited by the Ven John Kiddle, Archdeacon of Wandsworth, author of the best-selling God With Us: Your Christmas Journey.

Resources available:

Comfort and Joy: Nine Lessons and Carols for Christmas booklets - The booklets are now available to order (individually, or in packs of 10 or 50) from Church House Publishing. The pamphlets cost £0.80 or a pack of ten is £7.00. Other options are available. 

Comfort and Joy: Nine Lessons and Carols for Christmas digital media - These will also made available freely via audio, smart speaker, as well as in app and email formats with accompanying prayer activities for children and families.

Youth Reflections - Working with the Archbishop of York's Youth Trust and the Evangelism & Discipleship team, we will also produce a series of youth reflections in December.

A Church Near You (ACNY) - There will be free and adaptable content available on ACNY available in Advent and Christmas, we will encourage churches to list the full range of church building and online services taking place and the Resource Hub will provide free adaptable content, download and share (such as customisable videos, images and approaches to online giving).

Churches will also be encouraged to share either pre-recorded or live services, if possible, using AChurchNearYou.com and their own websites and social media accounts to promote. 

Online services - In collaboration with a range of Christian charities and organisations, the national church will produce nine online services throughout Advent and Christmas. This will include an online service for each Sunday of Advent, a Christingle with the Children's Society, nine lessons and carols and midnight services. Charities involved include Christian Aid, Church Army, Embrace and Marie Curie. The online weekly services have been very well received on social media and continue to attract a diverse audience including regular churchgoers, people exploring faith and a wide age demographic.

Liturgy, singing and music - The national Church will be sharing Advent, Christmas and Epiphany music from across the traditions that churches can use as part of online and in-person services and events. This will be available through the ACNY Resource Hub, where music has already been downloaded more than 250,000 times over the last few months, thanks to the partnership with St Martin-in-the-Fields and RSCM. The list of hymns can be found on the Church of England website.

Printed materials - Bookmarks, Christmas cards, banners, flyers, posters, booklets and other printed items will be made available for churches to purchase, as in previous years. Pre-printed materials are available (along with copies of the Reflections booklet) will be made available to order via Church House Publishing.

Daily Hope - Daily Hope is a free phone number (0800 804 8044) offering music, prayers and reflections as well as full worship services from the Church of England at the end of a telephone line. The Comfort and Joy reflections, services and some of the music will also be available throughout Advent and Christmas. This will enable as many people as possible to access the content we are developing.

How can your church prepare for Advent and Christmas? - The national church are hosting free webinars that will focus on how you church can make the most of the content and resources. There will also be a session on Thursday 12th November starting at 9.30am on Christmas in your Community: Bringing Comfort and Joy.