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 B Revised Common Lectionary emphases:

  • week 1:  Notice how much natural imagery is used both by Jesus and Isaiah (sun, moon, stars, dawn and night, unfurling leaves, mountains, brush burning). These aren't only terrifying apocalyptic images, but signs for us.  "From the fig tree, learn its lesson!"

  • week 2:  Isaiah and Mark both dwell in the wilderness.  The mountains and deserts and fading grasses again teach us to expect God.  The waters of John the Baptist refresh life.  Even the locusts and wild honey remind us of the sustenance--the wilderness may get us away from hectic society, but God is ever-present in blessing!  Psalm 85 is its own treasure trove; for inspiration, enjoy John August Swason's visual representation.

  • week 3:  Isaiah 61 not only echoes a prayer of blessing that many use in baptisms or confirmations, but also connects easily to the greenery of seasonal decor -- garlands as celebrative decoration are mentioned twice. 

  • week 4:  Remember pregnancy and birth as God's creation in us and with us.  God invites us to be "creative co-creators."  Immanuel, "God with us," is a presence in the midst of our human community and also the whole of our world.

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.