Planning for Worship from December through February

Worship Planning for December through February

All creation groans together as we await redemption and restoration of all of life. Advent is a time to repent in preparation for a new age in which the leaves of the trees, as John the Seer depicts it in his vision of the new Jerusalem, will be “a healing for the nations” (Rev. 22:2).

Some ideas and themes that fit with this Advent season:
  • highlight the arrival of evergreens, a promise of God's continuing attention to the life of creation
  • here are examples of prayers to go with the decorating and lighting of evergreens
  • conversely, bring bare branches from the outside world into your sanctuary so you continue to mirror the world around you, and also embrace the hope of awaiting new life
  • as the season gets darker, we light more candles on the Advent wreath
  • year A Revised Common Lectionary emphases
    • week 1: Marking a new liturgical year and season, Jesus' words point us toward attentiveness to our times, to night and day and the day and hour. Also striking ecologically is the prophet Isaiah's vision of beating swords into plowshares, guiding modern reflections on houw our resources and technology may be for earth-care instead of causing the destruction of life.
    • week 2: From the wilderness, John the Baptist preaches with natural imagery of trees and axes, grain and chaff. Among the most beautiful ecological visions in all of Scripture, Isaiah's Peaceable Kingdom casts the image that it is not only human beings who are reconciled by God's work but the wolf and lamb, calf and lion, snakes, serpents, and more, so that "the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord."
    • week 3: Another beautiful prophetic vision is of the blossoming desert (Isaiah 35), reminding us that the work of Jesus in healing human illness and brokenness is complemented by creation-wide restoration and celebration.
    • week 4: With Isaiah's words about the young girl conceiving and Matthew's awareness of the dilemmas and difficulties this pregnancy caused for Joseph, this day emphasizes the physical realities of childbirth, that our human bodies are not only the venue of God's spiritual work but are inextricably part of life in this world.
  • a few year B and a few year C Revised Common Lectionary emphases
  • Visit our Devotions page for seasonal resources on reflection, too.

Again, Christmas is a time in many congregations of special decorations that draw our attention to the beauty of creation.  With that, our celebration of Christmas is joined not only to the songs of angels, but with the hymns of all creation.

When your congregation is getting a Christmas tree, perhaps include a blessing of the growth of all trees or a prayer as you cut it for its life that joins and enhances your congregation's praise.  Some congregations have a service of the burning of Christmas trees on Epiphany. Instead, why not have a service of recycling and rebirth as the trees are prepared for composting? Or place a living Christmas tree in the church and then plant it on church property in the spring.

You may also have poinsettias adorning your sanctuary.  These, especially, are connected to the season's rhythms of light and darkness.  (Read some more about "photoperiodism" here.)

The Christmas story and its surrounding carols and hymns have lots to draw our attention to creation.  What would Luke 2 be without night skies and sheep and a barn and hay in the feed trough?  We sing of stars and ox and ass that are lowing.  In a dark night of mid-winter, we celebrate new birth and light that comes into the darkness.

Here we celebrate the manifestation and glory of God not only in the arrival of the Christ child but also in the light and glory of God present in the beautiful works of human creativity and in the magnificence of the whole Earth and indeed in the resplendent vastness of the entire cosmos.  Even in the midst of winter, this "green" season is a chance to see the abundance of life shared in Jesus, with waters and fish and light more.