Hanging of the Greens Service
The Meaning of the Service Reading
As we begin the Christian Year, we do so by celebrating the Holy Season known as Advent. It is a time when we prepare ourselves for the coming of our Messiah. Advent means “Coming”, so we celebrate these days of Advent in expectation and preparation for Christ’s arrival.
Through the centuries, Christians have observed a time of waiting and expectation before celebrating the birth of the Savior at Christmas. The Advent season is a time for reflection and preparation, but its mood is joyful. Advent has been enriched by Christian tradition to reflect its distinctive Christian meaning. The season of Advent proclaims the revelation of God’s love as expressed in Christ’s birth in a humble stable, which continued into his sacrificial death on the cross and his victorious resurrection! It points to the hope of Christ’s coming again as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Advent makes innkeepers out of all of us, asking each of us to make room for the arrival of Christ the King. Let us, today, prepare him room in our hearts, our lives and our homes.
Leader: Advent is a time of expectation. During this Holy Season we anticipate the arrival of Christ upon us in the days to come.
People: Our anticipation is symbolized by the Advent wreath before us. The flame of each new candle reminds us, the worshippers, that something is happening, and something more is still to come.
Leader: The Advent wreath portrays God’s never-ending love and everlasting life through the never-ending circle and the everlasting evergreen color. This morning, we light the Candle of Hope trusting in the hope of Christ and proclaiming Christ’s hope into our world.
People: In Christ’s hope, we know that what we see today is not the final answer to life. Among all of life’s questions, there is something more before us.
Leader: We trust in God’s goodness knowing the Kingdom of God is at hand.
People: God’s Kingdom is present in the least likely places - our very lives. God’s Kingdom becomes revealed when we show each other unconditional love, and we portray the Kingdom of God when we offer forgiveness and grace to those who do not show us their unconditional love.
Leader: We rediscover God’s hope in Christ by seeing the Kingdom of God at hand.
People: For all of this we give Glory to God in the Highest!
Advent Reading: Evergreens and Wreaths
The most striking and the most universal feature of Christmas is the use of evergreens in our 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. Evergreen trees, garlands and wreaths are symbols of the eternal life available when Jesus comes into our lives. The wreath itself, a never-ending circle, also reminds us of the endless love of God. We hang the greens to reflect our joy in the abundant life we find through Christ.
Advent Reading: Christ's Light
The candles we place in our windows today have a two-fold purpose - to recognize Jesus as God’s light in the world and to recognize how we too become God’s light in the world. As the Gospel of John says, Jesus is the true light, the light of the world, the one who dispels darkness forever. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus told his followers as well - you are the light of the world and the salt of the earth.
We carry the light of Christ within us, not just through the Christmas season, but all year ‘round, and are commanded to invite others to Christ’s calling out of the darkness of sin and death. Our calling is to be an incarnation of Jesus into our dark world. Christ’s light shines into our hearts and through us, which empowers us to become that light to the world. The candles also remind us that Jesus has promised to return. We wait expectantly for his promise to be fulfilled in the hope that Christ’s light continues to shine unto the end of times.
Advent Reading: Luke 2:1-14, NKJV
Advent Reading: The Nativity
One of the most heart-warming expressions of Christmas is the Nativity. The Nativity speaks of the mystery of God’s wisdom. How 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 including 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 & Joseph with the Shepherds bowing before the manger, overwhelmed by God’s expression of love in coming to us.
Advent Reading: Poinsettia
In the past two hundred years, a new element has found its place in our Christmas celebration. It is from the Christian practices and symbols in Mexico that we have adopted this tradition. In the very early part of the 19th century, an American, Joel Poinsett, who served the United States as an ambassador spent a tour of duty in Mexico. He admired the dramatic beauty of the bright red poinsettia that grew rooftop high and bloomed profusely at Christmas. He was awed when Mexican Christians told him why the bright red poinsettias were a part of their celebration of the birth and life of Christ.
In Mexico, the story goes like this: The Bethlehem star shone over the manger where Jesus was born. Its light so bright the earth responded, reflecting that star light, receiving that star light, mirroring that star light with a beautiful flower - star shaped, radiant shaped, pure white petals, golden star centers. In Mexican lore, it was always the Flower of the Holy Night. It grew on earth as a creation to glorify and commemorate that Holy Night… "For the stars shout forth the glory of God.”
Then came the tragic day when Jesus died on the cross and the blossoms changed. Flower of the Holy Night remembered the sacrifice of the Christ by becoming star-shaped, radiant blood red petals with golden centers.
Now, everywhere on cards and on trees, in churches and in our homes, the poinsettia takes its place; reminding us of a Holy Night, pointing to a Good Friday.
Advent Reading: The Christmas Tree
For the church, the Christmas tree is one of the most popular symbols of the holiday season. Not only is it a beautiful decoration, it has a great message for us. At Christmas, we choose an evergreen as the symbol of our salvation. Green is the color of living things and reminds us of new life in Christ. It stays green all year and symbolizes everlasting life. The evergreen points skyward, urging us to ever look upward to heaven. Then we add the symbols of our ornaments on the tree. The message of the tree becomes a co-creation experience between God and humanity. The beauty of the evergreen points to God’s work of creation, and the beauty of the ornaments point to our work of creation in the tradition of celebration through the symbols of our.
Advent Reading: The Christ Child
The greatest gift of Christmas is the gift of God in Christ Jesus. All that we do at this Holy Season points to that expression of Holy Love. Christ came as a babe in Bethlehem, God’s gift at Christmas. During this Advent season we prepare for Christ coming again. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, we discover Christ coming to us anew each Advent season. For this we celebrate and for this we decorate our sanctuary. Through this celebration and decoration, we pass on the heritage of our faith in Christ to our children and grandchildren. It is through the work of the Holy Spirit in your life and mine that the Gift goes on.
We go now with HOPE, having heard of the gift given to us all.
We go now in PEACE, to share the gift of Jesus.
We go now with JOY, for Jesus is born!
We go now with LOVE, for God has saved us through His Son.