by Pastor Dave Sutter

The Hanging of the Greens at Kern Road Mennonite begins with a chili supper (a tradition established long before the trees and wreaths appeared).  The evening concludes with prayer.  Sandwiched in between is the decorating.  Accomplished in varying ways -- sometimes with scripture, sometimes with story, sometimes song or creative arts, sometimes with order, and sometimes not so much -- the hoped for outcome is the same. We aim to prepare our space and ourselves to remember the greatest event in human history. God sends God’s son into the world as a selfless act of love.     
This particular year, the decorating process was informal and simultaneous, maybe even a bit raucous.  Advent music played as we decorated but instead of background music in a dimly lit space, the CD was loud and lively and the lighting bright and celebratory.  The atmosphere was energizing, and the sanctuary was a beehive of activity. Items were pulled out of storage. Hands and bodies of varied age and size bustled about to place the decorations in position. Candles and greenery on the window ledges, lights and homemade decorations on the trees, gold and red balls hanging from the window sashes, a wooden crèche in front of the world banner, wreathes for the glass doors -- all positioned in 30 minutes or less. We returned to our seats to look at the transformation.   
As the activity slowed, the music was turned off.  Pastor Janice invited us to transition to a new space of reflection and prayer. We were invited to visit one or more of three stations: one at the back where we were instructed to write down things that might distract us during this Advent season before placing them in the gift wrapped box, the second at the wall of Peace, Love, Joy, and Hope where we lit one candle to place in front of the emotion we sense we need most this year and lit another to place in front of the emotion we are most likely to be able to share with others, and the third at the large nativity where we were asked with which character do we identify and why before placing a note or a cutout near that character.  
The lights dimmed, and the place grew silent. Movement began again but this time it was quiet and reverent. As if someone had a flipped a switch, dark shapes moved from station to station but at a different pace. A different kind of preparation was happening. The smell of burning candles filled the air as did the prayers being lifted. Little by little, the crowd grew surrounding the wooden statues of the nativity, now standing in holy honor at the foot of the world banner. The words of Isaiah were read to proclaim the coming of peace and light. We closed in song and prayer standing in a different place than when the evening had begun.          
How will you make room for the coming of Christ in your life in these next weeks of this Christmas season?  And with whom will you share the light and hope, the peace and joy, that will surely come to you when you open yourself anew to the coming of Christ into the world?  

Note: This originally appeared in the December 2018 edition of Kernels.