Opportunities this Season
Have you been singing any Christmas carols? One of the my favorite things about Christmas is singing Christmas songs, carols, popular songs and kids songs. I have my piano tuned this time each year, just for the occasion, so we can sing together as a family.
December 2-23 Make a Donation to the FPCA Giving Tree
Bring an unwrapped gift to support Green Opportunities students facing personal emergencies. Item(s):
Household- toilet paper, paper towels, laundry, cleaning products
First aid supplies
Toiletries; Diapers, wipes, diaper cream
$25 Ingles/ Target gift cards.
Donations may be left under the tree in the Foyer. Green Opportunities trains, supports, and connects people from marginalized communities to sustainable employment.
December 12 Moravian Love Feast Dinner & Worship
December 16 Christmas Caroling with FPCA
December 18 Longest Night Worship Service (6:30 p.m.)
December 30 Twelve Days of Christmas Potluck Brunch (9:45 a.m.)
Christmas carols have way of speaking to the heart and soul: they wake up old memories, tell the good news story, and sometimes bring Emmanuel— the God who is with us— very near. If you walk through the art gallery this Christmas season, you’ll find that a number of our congregation created works of art using their favorite Christmas carols. Joy to the World, Go Tell It On the Mountain, Silent Night, Hark the Herald, In the Bleak Midwinter, and more are put to titled canvas. The title and the canvas places the hymn in the context of the artist’s life and makes meaning— it comes alive in a new dimension, and makes you want to ask them to say more.
There is always a little bit of a mismatch between the Christmas season of the culture we live in, and the Christmas season of the church. In our personal lives we begin preparing for Christmas around Thanksgiving (or before), and we go right up until Christmas Day. But while we prepare for Christmas, the church begins Advent and stays in Advent up until Christmas Day. So when you hear Christmas carols in a store, you’ll hear Advent hymns at church; and when you’re tired of hearing Christmas carols in the store, you’ll hear them at church. As Mary McKibben Dana, a Presbyterian author and pastor, writes: “When we in the mainline church insist on Adventen purity (no Christmas music until X, no tree until Y), when we hold Christmas back with a whip and a chair, because it’s good for us, darn it!… then we are out of step with the world around us.” Or, as another Presbyterian pastor, Tom Are of Village Church in Prairie Village, Kansas, said once, “the days when the church can tell the culture what time it is have passed. We’re not going to hold it back.”
If I was in charge of the liturgical calendar, I would just move Advent to the month of November so we could celebrate Christmas without any lingering “Adventen” complications. That seems very practical to me. But I’m not in charge of the calendar, and so we do the best we can. I don’t believe, though, we can let go of Advent. In some ways, Advent is precisely what our culture needs more of.
Advent is really about nurturing a hope for the second coming of Christ, which will bring the kingdom of God in all its fullness. When the kingdom of God comes in fullness it will mean the end of death, and sickness, and poverty, and homelessness, and racism, and corruption, and fear, and violence. Lord knows we need to nurture hope for that, and learn to look for signs of it. Advent helps us do that too-places where sickness is being healed, and poverty alleviated, where the homeless are helped, where peace is made, and forgiveness offered, where love is growing and fear is dissipating. Advent asks us to look for those signs, to lift our heads and straighten our backs, and be hopeful.
In that sense, you might say our world needs Advent as much as it needs Christmas, maybe more. Christmas tells us the story of what happened in the Bethlehem manger, but Advent tells us the promise that was wrapped in the child, the promise that Mary pondered, the promise that sent the shepherds running, the promise that we need to hold on to and treasure. So we have to hold them together, Christmas and Advent, and we will.
You’ll see some of the ways we will do that in the events of this newsletter. You’ll also receive email devotions each day to help you prepare spiritually for Christmas. We will hold these two seasons together, in our prayers, and songs, and readings, and celebrations. We will hold them together for the sake of a world that loves Christmas and needs Advent.
In Christ, Patrick