Hanging of the Greens
Call to Worship
The whole earth is at rest and quiet;
They break forth into singing.
The cypresses rejoice at you,
And the cedars of Lebanon. (Is. 14:7,8)
The glory of Lebanon shall come to you:
The cypress, the plane, and the pine;
To beautify the place of my sanctuary;
And I will make the place of my feet glorious! (Is 60:13,14)
Lighting of the Advent Candle
We acknowledge the prophesies and celebrate the coming of Christ with traditions, with worship, with reverent waiting. There are many symbols of waiting, of preparation. There are many customs to hail the Advent, which is Latin for "the Coming." Foremost among the symbols is the Advent Wreath, the Wreath of Coming. The circle of the Wreath like God himself, has no beginning and no end. A circle of evergreen, a circle of meaning, a symbol of that which is as eternal as God, as victorious as the coming Christ, and as everlasting as his promises. The Advent Wreath is a symbol of hope, a symbol of four Sabbaths of waiting. Four candles light the wreath. Three are purple. Purple is the color of kings; it is also the color of repentant preparation. On the fourth Sunday of Advent, the rose candle is set aglow remembering the unfettered joy of the Angel's song. The center candle is white, pure white, lit when Christ is come. The wreath is made with carefully chosen materials, each a symbol of the Christ. Holly is used to symbolize the crucified Christ. Legend says holly was used to fashion the crown of thorns for the head of the crucified Christ, and that the berries were yellow until stained red by His blood. Mistletoe symbolizes Christ the everlasting. Ancient Druids noted how, when all other trees were bare, Mistletoe remained green. It was also a love symbol for them. In Christian legend it became a symbol of eternity; Christ the Everlasting, Christ the Eternal, Christ the Beloved. So in the wreath, we symbolized the coming of Christ, the Victorious Christ, the Prince of Peace; Christ, the Eternal; Christ, the Revelation of God. He comes! Let us prepare for His coming with joy.
Hymn "On Jordan's Banks" No. 36
Hanging of the Greens
The prophet Isaiah writes: "Here is my herald whom I send and he will prepare your way."
Prepare the way. Prepare your heart and mind. Let everyone stand silent. Let the stars and moon cease to move. Let the leaves of the trees and the tall browning grass cease to rustle in the wind. With expectant hush, and long awaiting yearning, we herald the coming of the long awaited Christ Child, the coming of the infant to Bethlehem.
Advent. A Latin word for "Coming." Prepare the way. Prepare the heart to receive. Prepare the way. The Christ is coming. Let us prepare for the advent, the coming of the Christ Child. On this first week of Advent, let us prepare with repentance. Let us prepare with hope. Let us prepare with faith. For the light will come into this world, as God has promised. The Christ Child came into Bethlehem's stable. He will come into the world again, into every life that waits, and into every hopeful heart. The Messiah comes to bring Christmas to every waiting believer. Let us now prepare to receive Him. Let us now begin our service of preparation. Come let us begin - our expectant waiting, for Christ, the Messiah.
Prayer of the Day
Father, the whole world rejoices at the coming of Your Son. Everywhere around us we see signs of His coming. As we gather in this evening hour, as Your family, draw us closer to You; fill our hearts with anticipation and longing for Your Son's return, and make His Spirit very present in our hearts tonight. May the life symbolized in the hanging of these greens tonight, be a sign of the greater life we find in Him. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
Hymn: "Oh Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel" (verse 1) No. 34
PLACING THE EVERGREENS When all the earth is brown, when the leaves have departed the trees; Evergreens stand in lonely vigil until the earth again is green. Evergreens shout to us about the hoped for coming of green again. Evergreens stand ever ready to remind us of joyous hope. The joyous reality of the eternal presence of the Christ Child; the eternal presence in all the world. Legend tells us that long ago, the evergreens were not forever colored with verdant leaves. Before the birth of the Eternal One, before the coming, the evergreen was bare like other trees around. Let us begin this legend with the recorded event written in Scripture and recorded by Matthew. The Gospel writer says, An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. And the angel said to him: "Rise up and take the Infant Jesus and his mother and escape with them to Egypt. Stay in Egypt until I bid you return. You are no longer safe. Go, for Herod sends his soldiers to seek out the Child and destroy Him." So Mary and Joseph and their Infant Child left the warmth and security of their land and journeyed into Egypt. Hastily, they gathered their meager belongings. Into the dark of night they stole away. Escape, they must, the jealous wrath of Herod and his men. Escape, they must, from the death decree handed down by Herod. No word could be said of their hasty departure; no notice of a planned destination. Friends and family could not know of their going, lest they too come under the decree of death. Over rocky hills and dusty roads, they traveled wearily; Mary and the Infant on the back of a donkey; Joseph, alert and watchful, walking beside them. With heavy saddened hearts and fearful weary bodies, they made their way all night long and into the following long day. Mid-afternoon, dust in the distance behind them came. Fast riding soldiers came, soldiers sent from Herod, sent to carry out Herod's dreadful mission. Where could they hide? Where could the Holy Family find protection? The hillside was barren, offering no shield. Quickly, a frightened Joseph guided Mary and her child into a clump of cedars on a hill. Immediately, the bare cedar twigs greened with color, thickened with growth to shield the Holy Family. The white berries of the cedar tree turned to sapphire blue to match the robe that Mary wore that day. So Mary, mother of Jesus in a robe of sapphire blue could blend with cedar trees, and go unnoticed by passing, hunting soldiers. Past the Holy family, went the band of Herod's men; never seeing, never knowing Mary, Joseph, and Infant Jesus were safely sheltered in a clump of green cedars with berries of sapphire blue. Since that day, cedars and plants like them have never shed their leaves; never lost their green; for they sheltered the Holy Family. Forever green, to honor the day they received the Infant Christ Child. Evergreen, everlasting, eternal, green branches are a part of our preparation, our waiting: a symbol of hope, a symbol of eternity, a reminder of love received. Evergreen is a symbol of the eternal promise of renewal, a symbol of the eternal and everlasting God. STAND WITH ME to sing the first and third verses of our hymn: Hark the Herald Angels Sing.
Carol "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" Verses 1,3 No. 60
THE LEGEND OF THE CHRISTMAS TREE
The Christmas Tree is widely used in our celebration of Christmas. Green trees, blue trees, frosty snow-covered trees, inside a warm room. Lighted trees, living trees, all are trees of Christmas. Our use of Christmas trees is so widespread, we have forgotten the beginning. Martin Luther put lighted candles on his tree to recapture the glistening twigs of the tree in the forest. He also topped his tree with a star to commemorate that star which was in the Bethlehem sky as recorded in scriptures: "Behold, there came wise-men from the East to Jerusalem, saying, 'Where is He that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East and we have come to worship Him.'" He said the Christmas tree, with its top pointing up to heaven, was like hands folded in prayer, pointing to the throne of grace, from which we received our Savior. Let us sing the first four verses of Luther's carol, "From Heaven Above." While we sing, we invite you to come forward and put an ornament on the tree.
Carol "From Heaven Above" Verses 1-4 No. 51
THE LEGEND OF THE 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 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 dies on the cross and the blossoms changed. Pure white petals remembered the sacrifice of the Christ born when the star was over Bethlehem. Flower of the Holy Night, star shaped, radiant shaped, blood red petals, star flowers for the Holy Night. 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. Let us sing the first two verses of No. 198, "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence," as we place the poinsettias.
Carol "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" Verses 1,2
Reflection "Love That Is Ever Green"
Hymn "Lo, How A Rose" No. 58
Prayer of the Church
The Lord's Prayer
Hymn "Cold December Flies Away" No. 53
May the hand of God protect you; may His holy angels keep watch over you, to keep You in all His ways. And may the Spirit of Christmas, which is the Spirit of Christ, grow in your heart into an overflowing stream of peace, hope and love. Go in peace. Serve the Lord.
* unless otherwise marked, all hymns are from the Lutheran Book of Worship