Pastor Carolyn's Corner
Thanksgiving has just begun, I realize that outside the doors of this and other churches, the Christmas Season is already in full swing. This year, stores have been having “Black Friday” type sales throughout the month of November. The malls already have their decorations up and Santa is already available in most places for kids to have their photos taken with him. Toy stores are fully stocked with the hottest toys for this year, clothes stores have extra racks out. Floor space in all stores seems to be at a minimum as there is extra inventory for people to choose from (trying to get a stroller through these extra displays has been a challenge!)
After we gather with our families or friends for Thanksgiving Dinner, there are stores that will be open to begin the official shopping season. Friday brings Black Friday, Saturday is Small Business Saturday, there’s Cyber Monday and then giving Tuesday. There’s a rush of things going on- homes to prepare, gifts to wrap, parties to attend, a hustle and bustle all around us.
And yet, here at church we will be doing something different. We will be postponing our full Christmas celebration until the evening of Christmas Eve. When we gather here on Sunday mornings, we step away from the hectic pace of the world, into something different. Into a time of waiting. With the waiting we are preparing for a few things. At the beginning of the season, we will be looking ahead, to the future, to the time when Jesus will come again. Then in the midst of the season we turn to our preparation to celebrate when Jesus entered into the world as a baby.
Advent is a season of hope, a season of expectant waiting, it is not a time for us to jump right into our Christmas celebration. Instead, we count the time laid out ahead of us. We use the Advent Wreath to help with this counting. As the nights of the winter season get longer, and the days get shorter, we light the candles on the Advent Wreath and it gets brighter each week! This season also calls for simplicity in worship.
Here at St. Paul’s we are very traditional in how we worship and the things we do. Due to that tradition, as we approach 2018 we will be making a change. The Worship and Music Committee recently discussed our altar flowers. The reason this discussion began was that there were many weeks throughout the past year when flowers are not dedicated by someone, and therefore the cost of the flowers ends up being covered by the church. A proposal was made to supplement those weeks where no one has made a dedication by using artificial flowers. We decided against doing this because of the symbolism that fresh flowers hold. They show us new life, and yet, since they are cut flowers, they quickly wither and remind us of the frailty of life itself.
This also brought us to discussing the fact that we typically have flowers adorn our sanctuary year-round. There are times of the church year when that isn’t appropriate. That includes the penitential season of Lent, Holy Week, and Advent. The reason Advent is included with this time when flowers are to be omitted, is the simplicity we are looking for during worship as we wait in hope for our Lord’s arrival. This also highlights the celebration that comes with the arrival of Christmas! Because of this, when the sign-up sheets for 2018 flowers are hung in the hallway, the dates for Lent and Advent will be omitted. (We will have flowers during Advent this year because for most of the weeks people have already signed up).
I realize this means there will be people who traditionally dedicate flowers during these times for the birthday, anniversary or other events in the lives of loved ones and I would like to suggest two alternatives. First, would be to shift the celebration to another date. There are already times when this shift is taking place because someone had already signed up for flowers on the date you were hoping to sign up for as well. Second, would be to make a donation to something else in honor or in memory of your loved one. During Lent we focus on spiritual disciplines and fasting- contributing to a feeding program would be one suggestion. The same could be true during Advent. There are plenty of ways to honor those we love, even during the times of year when flowers on the altar are not used!
While this change may take some time for adjustment, it will be a good change. Not having the flowers adorn the altar for the weeks of Advent and Lent means the flowers for Christmas and Easter will add more to our festivities!
May you all have a wonderful, hope-filled Advent and very Merry Christmas! I hope to see you all for worship throughout this Advent season, for Christmas Eve and Christmas day as well as for the other events we have planned for the congregation!