On the feast of Stephen...

Today's worship was quiet and modestly attended - the blizzard was just threatening us this morning - and most folk are still recovering from the Christmas feasting. But we had a baptism to celebrate - and the good news to proclaim - so it was a treat to be in the quiet Sanctuary after the fullness of Christmas Eve. We spent some time singing the great carols of the Western church - and then talked about how we might better explore and deepen our commitment to the counter-cultural values of Advent next year - and it was fascinating. Three insights bubbled up from the Body of Christ that are worth mentioning:

+ Next year we're going to devote most of November to studying and preparing for Advent; most of us still don't get it. So, we'll do Bible study in our adult classes - forsake the realm of crafts in Sunday School - and really spend some time with scripture and tradition so that we want to welcome this odd spiritual season. Two helpful resources: Living in God's Time by Margaret McMillian Persky and To Dance with God by Gertrud Mueller-Nelson will be our guides.

+ We will also spend some time practicing, listening and exploring the message and music of the songs of Advent. Many people still don't understand the gentle Advent discipline of not singing the carols of Christmas too early. Only a few of us old church geeks know - and love - "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence," "The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came" or "People Look East." We agreed that rather than rewrite Christmas carols with Advent insights, why not just learn the time-tested tunes of the season? And we can use technology to help us, too: each week I can link a hymn from You Tube to my church email re: prayers and programs and include spiritual themes and theological ideas about each song. They might even become our weekly prayer, too.
+ And we will make the start of Advent - and its observance - central to our December worship in ways that integrate ALL our senses. Music is key, of course, but so is movement, smells, the visuals of worship to say nothing of taste and touch. Too often Reformed worship is a "head thing" and the time has come to celebrate a more sacramental approach to worship. Not that this will be simple - or comfortable - but it will help us enter into Advent more authentically so that we might" grow up into Christ" rather than be fully shaped by our shallow and often wounded culture.

The snows are coming furiously now... blessings.

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