Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Hanging of the Greens

On the second day of Christmas...

James was asked a few weeks ago to participate in our church's Hanging of the Greens service. I hadn't ever even been to one, so I wasn't sure what to expect but this boy is all ABOUT church participation so we jumped in. He had one line that he had to memorize (since he can't read) and recite while holding a microphone in front of the whole church. I didn't snap a picture or video the moment because he was nervous and I didn't want to be "that" mom. He was SO sweet through all of this. I made him practice, but I am not lying when I say that he memorized it after me saying it ONCE. On the way to the program on Sunday night he asked me if he needed to bow when he was done. :) Made my day. He didn't bow.

It also needs to be mentioned that this was one of the first times Will has gone to "big church" and he didn't make a peep through the whole thing. He played with his little elf toy and ate candy that Grandmama brought, but was VERY well-behaved. At our church kids are supposed to begin attending the services at three and we've been a little concerned about it. I know he won't ALWAYS have great behavior in church, but this made us feel MUCH better about what's coming in February.

Some of the program was really interesting so I thought I'd share those thoughts here, just so that I'll have them when I look back.

Hanging of the Ornaments
Holy Creator of Trees, 
bless with your abundant grace
this our Christmas tree as a symbol of joy.
May its evergreen branches be a sign
of your never-fading promises.
May its lights and ornaments call us
to decorate with love our home and our world.
May it symbolize the gift we have received
from the Tree of Christ's Cross.
Holy Christmas tree,
may Your Joy and Peace come and nest 
in the branches of our lives and hearts. Amen.

* * * * *

The most striking and the most universal feature of Christmas is the use of evergreens in churches and homes. Among ancient Romans, evergreens were an emblem of peace, joy, and victory.

The early Christians placed them in their windows to indicate that Christ had entered the home. Holly and ivy, along with pine and fir are called evergreens because they never change color. They are ever-green, ever-alive, even in the midst of winter. They symbolize the unchanging nature of our God and they remind us of the everlasting life that is ours through Christ Jesus.

Isaiah tells us that there will be no end to the reign of the Messiah. The wreath, in its shape of a circle which itself has no end, signifies the eternal reign of Jesus, the Christ.

In ancient times, holly was considered a sign of Christ's passion. Their prickly leaves suggested the crown of thorns, the red berries the blood of the Savior, and the bitter bark the drink offered to Jesus on the cross. As we place the holly, let us rejoice in the coming of Jesus, our Savior.

Most Christmas greenery reflects European traditions, but one colorful plant, which looks like a flaming star, the poinsettia, is a native of the American continent. It was named after Dr. Joel Robert Poinset, an ambassador to Mexico, who first introduced it to the United States in 1828. The people of Mexico and Central America call the brilliant tropical plant the "Flower of the holy Night." The poinsettia is a many-pointed star that has become a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem.

* * * * * 

The Nativity
One of the most heart-warming expressions of Christmas is the Nativity. The Nativity speaks of the mystery of God's wisdom. Why God chose to send his Son into our world as a baby of humble birth, born in common surroundings, we do not know.

What we do know is that God reached out to all people: the poor and the wealthy, the simple and the wise, the powerless and the powerful. All who found Him knelt in humility before Him. Knowing God is possible because He came to us at our level.

Whenever we see a Nativity we find ourselves with Mary and Joseph, with the shepherds and with the wise men, bowing before the manger, overwhelmed by God's expression of love in coming to us.

* * * * *

Work of Christmas Begins
When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are back home,
when the shepherds are back with the flocks,
then the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal those broken in spirit,
to feed the hungry,
to release the oppressed,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among all peoples,
to make a little music with the heart...
And to radiate the Light of Christ,
every day, in every way, in all that we do
and in all that we say.
Then the work of Christmas begins.

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