Although January marks the new year for most of us, the church calendar begins the new year at Advent. At Hope United Church of Christ, we began the church year with the sanctuary swathed in the somber, dark colors of Advent; deep purple and blue. Advent is a time of waiting, preparation and reflection. Usually the weather encourages this meditative environment with cooler, darker days. The Florida winter skies don’t bring snowflakes but even here, the days get shorter. We are more inclined to pause and think in dim winter days rather than the energetic, vigorous activities that happen in the bright sunshine. In this quiet time of Advent, we did not sing the joyful Christmas Carols that rang out in the shopping centers. The frenzy of consumerism skips the pensive, spiritual preparation that Advent provides. Just as a caterpillar needs the shelter of a cocoon for transformation into a new life with wings, we need the shelter of Advent to prepare ourselves for the new life being born into the world at Christmas.
Throughout Advent we reflected on how we prepare for Jesus’ birth; the birth of God-with-us, Immanuel. We prepared a place for the incarnation of God through Christ. We physically illustrated this “place” by constructing a manger doorway over the sanctuary door. Each week a new piece of construction appeared so that by the end of Advent, it was clear that we prepared a place for the baby to be born. Many thanks to our construction crew, Bean (Marcia) Smith and Karen Lehr who brought this abstract vision to life.
On Christmas Eve the Shepherds and barn animals appeared in silhouette near the windows and the deep blue and purple was replaced with bright white and dazzling gold. The light of Christ was born into the world and into Hope United Church of Christ! It was then, after a long wait, that the familiar, joyful Christmas Carols filled the sanctuary and our hearts! I could see the love shining on each face and twinkling in your eyes! It was a merry Christmas, indeed!
The experience continued on Epiphany Sunday when the wise men appeared and followed the star right to our manger/sanctuary. There were stars in the windows and on the Communion Table shining the light of Christ into our hearts. Many thanks to Yolanda Apodaca Rogers for hanging all those stars! On Epiphany Sunday we continued the tradition of receiving our “Star Gift.” How is God speaking to you through your star gift? (if you have not received your star gift yet, come and see me)
We prepared a place for the incarnation during the Advent season. We celebrated the incarnation at Christmas. We saw God revealed in Christ at Epiphany and we continue to seek God’s revelation in the world. Soon we will come to the season of Lent which brings more serious reflection as we journey with Christ to the cross. What does the story of our faith mean and what difference does it make in your life and in the world?