An Unlikely Advent

Extraordinary People of the Christmas Story

Rachel Billups

Expect the unexpected this Christmas.

This four-week Advent study focuses on the experiences of four sets of often overlooked characters in the Nativity story. During this Advent season, Rachel Billups guides readers through the themes of hope, love, joy, and peace by sharing the stories of Elizabeth and Zechariah, Herod, the Magi, and the shepherds. Each set of unexpected characters has something to teach about living faithfully on the journey to Christmas.

This study will be available on the app
in Fall, 2024.

About the Author

Rev. Rachel Billups

Rachel Billups is a visionary, leader, speaker and author. Currently she serves as pastor at New Albany United Methodist Church. She previously served as Senior Pastor at Ginghamsburg Church multi-campus ministry in Tipp City/Dayton Ohio. Rachel draws on her love of people and passion to explore new venues for ministry and mission.

Rachel is an ordained Elder within the United Methodist Church and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Bible/Religion and History from Anderson University and a Master of Divinity Degree from Duke Divinity School.

What's included?

This version of An Unlikely Advent: Extraordinary People of the Christmas Story contains all content from the book, leader guide, and DVD, in a digital format. All content is accessible via the state-of-the-art BeADisciple Study App, entirely accessible on your smart phone, tablet, or computer. You won’t have any physical study materials to keep track of!

The four-session study features Rachel Billups guiding participants through the study. The video sessions are approximately 10-12 minutes in length and, when combined with the four book chapters, make an ideal four-week group study. All videos sessions have transcript available.

The content contains everything needed to guide a group through the four-week study including session plans, activities, and discussion questions.

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Session overviews:

In Session 1, participants will:

  1. Reflect on their dreams and plans for the future and consider how God changes their plans for the better.
  2. Learn about Elizabeth and Zechariah, parents of John the Baptist, how they had to change their plans, and how they responded to God’s call.
  3. Consider what is possible as a result of what we have seen God accomplish through God’s people.
  4. Explore how God is at work on the “rough edges of our story.”

In Session 2, participants will:

  1. Learn about King Herod, ruler of Judea and Galilee at the time of Jesus’s birth.
  2. Consider how jealousy and selfishness have negative effects on our lives and relationships.
  3. Struggle with the truth that God’s love and grace is for all people, even those who do horrible things.
  4. Recognize that we too are in need of God’s love and grace.

In Session 3, participants will:

  1. Consider why gift-giving is a part of Christmas traditions and reflect on the gifts that the magi brought to Jesus.
  2. Examine the importance of the town of Bethlehem to the ancient Israelites and to the Jewish people at the time of Jesus.
  3. Explore what we can learn from the magi about Jesus and how God’s grace is available to all people.
  4. Discuss how your congregation can become more welcoming and inviting for people who might feel like outsiders.

In Session 4, participants will:

  1. Consider the signs that God gives us and how these signs challenge us.
  2. Look at the example of the shepherds who, despite being afraid and anxious, were the first people outside of Jesus’s family to hear the good news of his birth.
  3. Discuss who in our community, like the shepherds, is overlooked, despite doing difficult and essential work.
  4. Focus on how the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives, especially during times of stress and difficulty.

Time commitments for this study:

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