Greening of the church

Before moving to Farmville our family had never experienced a greening of the church or hanging of the greens service. Now it is one of our favorite traditions. As the Christian Resource Institute describes, “The most striking and the most universal feature of Christmas is the use of evergreens in churches and homes. Among ancient Romans evergreens were an emblem of peace, joy, and victory. The early Christians placed them in their windows to indicate that Christ had entered the home. Holly and ivy, along with pine, and fir are called evergreens because they never change color. They are ever – green, ever – alive, even in the midst of winter. They symbolize the unchanging nature of our God, and they remind us of the everlasting life that is ours through Christ Jesus. Under Christian thought and sentiment, holly became widely used in church celebrations. Holly was considered as the burning bush, or a symbol of Mary whose being glows with the Holy Spirit. The red berries represented the blood drops from the cruel thorns in the crown of Jesus.”

In Isaiah 60:13 we read: “The glory of Lebanon will come to you, the juniper, the fir and the cypress together, to adorn my sanctuary.”

Prior to the second Sunday in Advent volunteers from our church gather greenery and someone heads to western North Carolina to cut a huge tree, lately a Fraser Fir. To prepare for the hanging of the greens we have an afternoon of people making boxwood wreaths, a cedar wreath and an evergreen swag and others decorating the tree in the sanctuary with intricate Chrismons that were lovingly made by hand many years ago. Chrismons are ornaments that are white and gold Christian symbols representing a variety of biblical and theological concepts well known among most believers.

The fellowship continues with a delicious pancake and sausage supper then we end the evening with a casual yet special worship service. Between scripture readings, other readings and an assortment of hymns the sanctuary is decorated with greenery and poinsettias. The Chrismon tree and the window candles are lit. Children and youth play a large part in the service.

Each year the choir sings a beautiful traditional British folk Christmas carol, especially appropriate for the occasion. “The holly and the ivy, when they are both full grown, of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown. O, the rising of the sun, and the running of the deer, the playing of the merry organ, sweet singing in the choir. The holly bears a blossom, as white as lily flow’r, and Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ, to be our dear Saviour.  The holly bears a berry, as red as any blood, and Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ, to do poor sinners good. The holly bears a prickle, as sharp as any thorn, and Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ, On Christmas Day in the morn.”

Finally, we follow the choir outside and join in singing carols as the wreaths are hung above all of the doors. In unison we end reciting “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. ‘Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20)

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