Growing up, I was the lead decorator in my house at Christmas. Something magical happened as I unpacked treasures from our attic, taking care to display everything just right. The nativity scene went next to the tree, the tree was just to the right of the piano, and the ornaments were hung in priority with the most sentimental ones in the front so everyone could see.
Among those precious ornaments hung the hot-glued paper and cotton ball creations my brother and I had made at Advent workshops. Each one came with memories of stories about Jesus and smiling church ladies helping me assemble my masterpiece.
Attending the Advent workshop was a family tradition when I was little. In elementary school, my Sunday School class would draw pictures that were published in the churchwide devotional, which I would read to my family every night as we lit the Advent candles. Taking a minute to pause and reflect on the joy, peace, hope and love that Christ brought to us, I found myself understanding Advent differently. This season of preparation exists in the life of the church so that we might begin to comprehend the excitement for all the things God is about to do.
In Lent, we prepare for loss; we abstain to maintain focus on the sacrifice on our behalf. But in Advent, we prepare to receive; we celebrate to remind ourselves of what is on its way.
The church calendar may look full if you read all of the things going on during the season of Advent. There are music-centered services, volunteer luncheons, church cleanups, dinners, workshops, more luncheons and even a churchwide dance. We’ll even have six services on Christmas Eve. Then add on your own work parties, school functions, and visiting family, and it’s no wonder stress levels are so high this time of year.
It’s time I confess: I don’t care what you show up to. All I want is for you to find something that gives you a chance to experience the Divine during this holy season. My prayer is that you find an opportunity to pause and reflect, to celebrate and prepare because our God is preparing a new thing for us.
There are various events available for you to participate in that might be new or different this year:
On Sunday, November 26, 2017, Cori will be hosting a churchwide Advent workshop. There will be different stations with activities and devotional for everyone, complete with take-home items. This is a fantastic chance to interact with the Bible story of Jesus’ birth in a fresh and fun way.
On Sunday, December 10, 2017, the P3 band will host “A Down Home Christmas,” a dance party for people of all ages. Your church staff will be serving up chili and cornbread while you cut a rug with your jitterbug on the dance floor. (Did I use the term “jitterbug” correctly?) This dance is a great opportunity to invite friends and to bond as a church family — strengthening and building our community.
On Tuesday, December 19, 2017, come to the Gathering for a potluck dinner, covenant groups and a labyrinth. We’ll practice reflective prayer while we walk the labyrinth (a maze-like design usually made on the floor) and center ourselves with God. This is a great experience for quiet reflection and small group sharing.
While it isn’t new, the Blue Service may mean something different to you this year. So many of our people have suffered through the loss of a loved one, as we witnessed on All Saints’ Sunday a few weeks ago. On Friday, December 22, 2017, the Blue Service will offer anyone who is hurting a place to find comfort. The holidays can be really painful, but they don’t have to be lonely. Come to be supported and to support one another — no one is alone in this church family.
Prepare yourselves. God is at work. Come, o come, Emmanuel.