My sweet William and I attended a Hanging of the Greens service recently. It was traditional, solemn, and beautiful with readings and songs related to the symbols with which we surround ourselves at Christmas time. The Hanging of the Greens is typically done about a month before Christmas, an admonition through Scripture and song to prepare our hearts for the celebration of Advent, the first coming of Jesus to earth as the incarnate God.
For me the service was a debut to the Christmas season. You see I’m one who likes to enjoy Thanksgiving all by itself with the colors of fall, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie. Christmas comes afterwards.
Those of us who call ourselves Christian know Christmas is not about Black Friday, or when the tree gets decorated or which house on the block has the most holiday lights. It’s not about getting the best deal at the store or how much money we spend on the kids. It’s not about the beautifully wrapped packages nor the perfectly decorated home.
I can so easily get caught up in the paraphernalia of Christmas – the decorating, the baking, the buying, the attending of events, and on and on. Before I know it, I’m stressed to the max just anticipating the holidays. Where’s the “joy to the world” in that?
That special service created an anticipation in my heart for the celebration of Jesus’ birth, the One and Only Reason there even is Christmas. I look forward to reconnecting with the eternal truth of God’s wonderful plan for saving the world through the gift of a baby.
Pondering my own anticipation, I wonder about those in another time and place and what were their concerns a month before Jesus came into this world over 2000 years ago.
Mary, being 8 months pregnant surely felt like I did at 8 months pregnant – huge! She probably wasn’t sleeping well and was cumbersome when she tried to move about doing her daily tasks. She was anticipating delivering this child soon and praying for all to go well. Little did she know that the birth would be far from home in an animal-crowded cave.
Joseph, perhaps, was anticipating a trip to Bethlehem, the land of his lineage, possibly scrounging for coins to pay the tax that was suddenly thrust upon him and all of Judea. Was he wondering how in the world he could take Mary on such a trip? But could he leave her in Nazareth with the wagging tongues of the townspeople who already had their opinion of this unusual pregnancy?
In Jerusalem, there was one named Simeon who was looking for a Messiah, “the consolation of Israel,” Luke 2 tells us. But he was aged by now, and the promise had not yet come. Was his faith strong as he waited in hope? Or did he waiver sometimes, like I do when I try so hard to hold onto the promises of God? He was told he would not taste death until he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Perhaps there was something stirring in his soul, something akin to anticipation.
Then there was Anna, a prophetess. She also was old but still a faithful worshipper at the temple at Jerusalem. She had done it for many years since her widowhood. Her simple servant heart must have been looking for ways to serve, a moment where she could help someone in the busy activity surrounding temple worship. Her anticipation of daily worship would soon bring her face to face with the I AM!
Dear Father, I pray that my heart will anticipate this Christmas Day with remembrance of the miraculous moment You revealed Yourself in flesh and blood to the earthlings You longed to love. May I anticipate Your presence every morning as I arise. May I anticipate ways to serve others and ways to give from my heart. May I anticipate moments of worship, whether I’m all alone, with two or three, or with the congregation of believers.
And may I anticipate that You will come again and gather your bride to be with you for ever and ever. Amen.