Thursday, December 1, 2005

HANGING THE CHRISTMAS GREENS

I don't ever recall a "Hanging the Christmas Greens" service/event from my childhood. I remember that, at some point in the weeks leading up to Christmas, the church building got decorated. Wreaths were hung, a tree or two went up in the foyers and there was a nativity creche. Sometimes this went hand-in-hand with preparations for the the annual Christmas pageant, which seemed to be the focal point of our church Christmas events. That and a big pitch-in dinner party. I recall one year our church put together a "living" nativity event. But the concept of Advent was not on the landscape of our holiday preparations or practice of worship. We did not use an Advent wreath or paraments (I did not learn what paraments were until late into my seminary experience). No significance or meaning was attached to Christmas trees or evergreen wreaths or any other symbol of the season. Still, we celebrated Christmas with vigor.

TRIMMING THE CHRISTMAS TREE. It was more of an event to bring in and trim the Christmas tree in our home. It was an evening, an occasion, an event, complete with dad taking movies with the bright lamp shining in our eyes. The transformation of a basic, dull scotch pine into a sparkling Christmas tree that would grace our bay window for weeks was rather dramatic. It also seemed that whatever conflicts within our family or church, whatever the busy schedules--it all was set aside for that evening. That was part of the magic of trimming the Christmas tree. It was as if we could live more caringly, more purely, more hopefully from that evening on.

A FAITH FAMILY MOMENT. I hope for something like this when our church hosts our annual Hanging the Christmas Greens event, as we did last evening. A brief service intersperses well-known carols with the stories of the Christian meanings of evergreens, the Christmas tree, the poinsettia, the nativity, Christmas gifts, the Advent candles, the paraments, etc. Afterward, children, youth, and adults deck the halls and enjoy cookies and hot chocolate. It is intended to be a "faith family" moment, in which it is less important that each decoration is perfectly placed and more important that we share together, build relationships, and begin a journey of weeks together through this time of Advent.

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