Hanging of the Greens

An Active Service of Blessing, Celebration and Decoration

This is the service used by First Lutheran Church, Chariton, IA on Saturday, December 2, 2018, the day before Advent 1. All words and music needed for the service were printed in a bulletin given to the assembly. Members of the congregation decorating committee and the altar guild led much of the service.

Gathering Song     Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus, ELW 254

Opening Prayer

Lord, you have called us together as your people

and given us each new day.

Bless us as we gather to share fellowship

with you and each other.

Thank you for your creative presence

within and among us.

We pray this in the name of Jesus,

who taught us to pray…

Our Father, who art in heaven…

Call to Worship

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.

Lift up your eyes round about and see.

Sing and rejoice, for lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of you, says the Lord.

It is high time to awake out of sleep; for now, is our salvation nearer than when we first believed.

The night is far spent, the day is at hand; let us pull on the armor of light. 

As with gladness men of old, did the guiding star behold; as with joy they hailed

its light, leading onward, beaming bright so most gracious Lord may we evermore

be led to Thee.

Meaning of the Service

Almost 2,000 years ago, the story goes, sleepy shepherds were watching over their sheep on a star-brightened hillside in Palestine. It was a still, uneventful night. Suddenly, the darkness was filled with a strange light. The stillness was broken by angel voices singing “Glory to God in the Highest, on earth peace, goodwill to all.” So begins Christmas, a most beautiful and meaningful celebration of the Christian calendar.

Christmas actually begins with Advent, the season which we are about to begin.  Both the seasons of Advent – the season of “going toward” the birth of Christ – and Christmas have a long history. These seasons and their customs have developed through many centuries and many countries. Old customs and observances are refined, renewed, replaced; new ones are added. Some of our customs have pagan origins but have been adapted by redefining their meanings.  What is significant for us is not what they may once have meant but rather what they mean for us today.

This evening our church building will begin to wear its Christmas apparel.  For the first time our Christmas tree stands in the sanctuary. This day for the first time its lights will shine for us.  As we make ready for the birth of the child by preparing this sanctuary, we make ready ourselves and the sanctuary of our own hearts.  We are mindful that, although it is not Christmas yet, it will be here soon, very soon.

As we decorate the church, not only will we talk about the history of these Advent symbols but we will rededicate these symbols – and ourselves – to the service of God.

Scripture Reading 

Jeremiah 23:5-6

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

Blessing of the Greenery and the Paraments

Altar guild and decorating committee explains what is to be used and why. 

Hymn          For the Beauty of the Earth   879 ELW

During the singing of the hymn, the paraments and banners are set in place. The large wreaths, window garlands, wreaths for doors are set in place. The Christmas tree is brought in.

Prayer

Gracious God,

we offer to you

these items that will beautify our worship space,

which have been inspired by our love for you.

Accept our grateful thanksgiving for what you have given us

in the Word made flesh,

and bless our Christmas worship

as we announce once again the coming of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Amen.

Blessing of the Advent Wreath

Advent is a season of preparation and expectation. In the spirit of Christmas, we buy gifts, prepare food, send greeting cards, hang greens, attend parties, as well as many other beloved Christmas customs. Whether or not we realize it, our actions acknowledge and share the good news of the coming of the Christ Child.  We are telling those around us that there is reason to celebrate.  For the Child, born in a manger, brought the world the great gifts; the gifts of joy, hope, peace and love!

As we prepare our Christmas gifts, attend worship, visit friends, and observe family traditions, we do so that we might keep the Good News of Jesus’ birth event in our hearts and minds. As we observe the season of Advent, we see that the joy, hope, peace, and love that come through Christ abide in the world, not only during Christmas, but every day of the year.

The candles are placed in the advent wreat.

Meaning of the Lighted Wreath

The Advent wreath, a circle, without beginning or end, reminds us of the one, eternal God, whom earth and heaven adore.  The evergreen wreath reminds us of the promise of eternal life.  We light the candles around the wreath to remind us that Christ is the light of the world.

All four candles are lit at this time by the acolyte, as we sing the hymn.

Hymn          Light One Candle to Watch for Messiah          240 ELW

Prayer

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, ruler of the universe.

You call all nations to walk in your light

and to seek your ways of justice and peace,

for the night is past, and the dawn of your coming is near.

Bless this wreath that it may serve as a reminder

of how we await your coming.

Guide us in our waiting that we may be ready to greet Jesus when he comes

and welcome him into our hearts and homes,

for he is our light and our salvation.

Blessed be God forever.

Amen.

Blessing of Nativity Scene

The Meaning of the Manger

The original crib in which the Christ Child was laid was a manger in the floor, hanging over the place where the animals were kept at night. This is but one sign of his humble birth. The popular Christmas Nativity scene at churches and in homes creates a tableau of Jesus in his manger crib at Bethlehem, depicting scenes described by Luke and Matthew.

St. Francis of Assisi is often credited with the first manger scene about 800 years ago. For a people who could not read, the nativity scene was a powerful visual aid in telling the story of the birth of Jesus. We will add to our scene throughout Advent.

The stable and manager are set in place. Extra pieces, not central to the Christmas story itself may be added by the children, as we sing the hymn.

Hymn                      Away in a Manger             277 ELW

Prayer

Jesus, you are coming again at Christmas.

We take this moment in our daily lives

to stop and think about how your birth as a little baby

changed our lives.

Because of your love for us, we know your Father.

Thank you for this time to learn and live your story.

Amen.

Meaning of the Christmas Tree 

We are told that Martin Luther inspired the Christmas tree. One wintery Christmas night as he gazed at the starry night, Luther’s thoughts turned to the first Christmas. Wanting to hold on to all this, he went out and chopped down a beautifully shaped little fir tree. Placing it in the nursery to show his wife and child, he hung upon its branches, candles shining bright to represent the stars glowing in the heavens from where the Christ Child had come. From that time forth, the Christmas tree was decorated and light, so we may know that Christ brings the joy for which we wait.

Tonight, we dress up our Christmas tree with Chrismons. These Christian symbols give us a deeper meaning of Christ who died upon the cross redeeming you and me. Many hands have made these symbols for our tree, each a symbol of Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Blessing of Chrismons

All members of the assembly are invited to place the ornaments on the tree.

Prayer

Lord Jesus,

you are the light of the world,

and we remember that light as we decorate this tree

that you have provided from your creation.

When we see this tree,

remind us that we are all part of your family,

and that even though we are all different,

you love each of us as your precious child.

Amen.

 The Blessing of the Christmas Tree

*We pray together,

Loving God, we come with joy to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, whose path

of justice and inclusivity lights a path for all who follow him. May this tree,

arrayed in splendor, remind us of the life-giving cross of Christ, that we may

always rejoice in the new life that shines in our hearts. Amen.

Scripture Reading (read responsively)

Psalm 150

Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty firmament!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
   praise him according to his surpassing greatness! 
Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
   praise him with strings and pipe! 
Praise him with clanging cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

Closing Hymn       Joy to the World     267 ELW

Closing Prayer

Loving God, you have gathered and enlightened us,

and you give us the gift of creativity.

We give you our thanks and praise

for this community of faith

and ask your blessing on our witness in the world.

May this space and our lives be invitations to others

to experience the love you have so freely shared with us.

We pray in the name of the babe of Bethlehem,

our Lord Jesus.

Amen.

Just a little something we add at the end:

*Sing  Be Present at our Table, Lord

Dismissal to Fireside Room for Soup Supper

Adapted from sundaysandseasons.com and a similar service at St. Paul Lutheran, Winterset IA