advent one...

One of my favorite times in my life as one who serves God in a congregation is "hanging the green." Call it decorating the church or dressing the Sanctuary, when we do it as an inter-generational group, it feeds my soul. Usually it is barely controlled chaos, but always with a big heart. Today was no exception so I returned home grateful and exhausted to be a part of the whole mess. 

For one thing, these times are the "whole" body of Christ - young and old, focused and
scattered, happy and sad and everything in-between - where everyone is welcome. Some could only stay for 15 minutes but there was a task they could do - so they had a part to play. Others were in for the duration and their role was important, too. Perhaps that's why I am coming to believe that more of our church functions - meetings, mission events, social events, etc - might become one-time only gatherings rather than committees, boards or even ministry teams. People want to be connected, so why not help this happen?

Another thing that happens during these times is conversation beyond the superficialities of Sunday fellowship hour. There is a place for coffee hour (although it really doesn't work for introverts or guests) and certainly there would be dis-ease if I didn't greet people at the conclusion of the liturgy. But I don't get to know what's going on in these occasions. Putting up the tree, hanging tapestries and setting up the Christmas Creche, however, gives us time to talk and listen to one another. I get caught up on how youth in a former confirmation class are doing in school - and life. I get to see mommas and poppas and lots autnties and uncles interact with our youth and children. I get to talk about the morning message with adults who were really listening.  I get to listen to what's going on in a young artist's heart. And I get to see real people make room for one another in real time. 

I also get to invite others into a remembrance that all of this is sacred. At the close of today's decoratng I asked if we might sing "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" together. And without prompting, one young man kicked it off with a sweet boy's choir voice that was pure prayer. Incredible. We all sang the first verse and chorus and then paused in gratitude silently. Then it was time to move on to other tasks and responsibilities. But for just a moment we realized and reclaimed that moment as holy - and it was enough.

That is one of my prayers for myself during Advent: to pause four times each day and breathe in and out as I acknowledge God's grace all around and within me. I started an "Abbey of the Arts" on-line retreat tonight that speaks to this prayer, too. Perhaps I will have a chance to visit with a colleague in town who is also doing this retreat. That would be a gift. We shall see. 

Tomorrow I take Di to yet another round of tests in the hope we might find a diagnosis for her mystery pain. I will be prayerful in the waiting room for that is holy ground, too. Tonight there is much to be thankful for...

credits: Eva Perri, James Lumsden


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