Monday, December 11, 2006

The Transformation for Advent and Christmas

Today I am going to write about the transformation that has taken place in our church in preparation for Christmas. Before anyone jumps in to criticize let me make a few introductory observations. If your church has a Christmas tree in the sanctuary—you have no grounds for criticism. If your church has Christmas lights or evergreen branches in the sanctuary—you have no grounds for criticism.

Evergreen Presbyterian Church is located in one of the most unchurched regions of the country. Recognizing this fact impacts the way that we go about being the church. The Nativity Story hit the movie theaters less than two weeks ago. It will never be a big hit at the box office—but it will generate some interest in Jesus and his birth. This movie is a tool that we are using this Advent. Our talented artists and builders have transformed the front of our sanctuary into the sheep-birthing stable/cave of the movie. Using a book about the making of the movie, our folks were able to use pictures from the actual movie as inspiration for painting the hillside on which the stable was located. Then using all sorts of other “stuff” (that is a technical term for us non-artists) they built the stable big enough that a person can actually go inside it. The people who have seen the movie are shocked at how closely our sanctuary resembles the movie stable.

Why would we transform our sanctuary in this way? Why spend the time and the effort? Well… it has already be worth it because of one little girl that attends church on Saturday nights. This little girl is a little (no… a lot) temperamental. She loves coming to church—in part due to two other girls that attend. The transformation of our sanctuary absolutely captivated her. Following the worship service she spent a lot of time at the front of the church. The stable scene had caught her attention. This young girl knows the story of Jesus’ birth—that story has now taken on a slightly different meaning. This young girl did not want to leave the sanctuary on Saturday night. In the coming weeks we will have many people visiting church. It is our hope that the stable scene will generate new interest in the birth, life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus.

In planning worship, we forget that people have different learning styles. Some people are concrete/sequential—thus, we provide sermon outlines and room for taking notes. For the MTV generation, we have projection units in the sanctuary and periodically show short video clips (Samaritan’s Purse had some great ones for advertising Operation Christmas Child). Other people learn visually—too many churches have a difficult time “speaking the learning language” of these folks. For special occasions we transform the front of the sanctuary to help speak to our visual learners.

We have moved the Christmas tree to the Fellowship Hall. It is in the Fellowship Hall that we have our festive Christmas lights and decorations. Once again, our artistic folks have done a fantastic job of making that area shine with the joy of Christmas.

I am sorry that I will not have pictures of the sanctuary on the blog until the end of the week. My camera is in West Virginia with my wife as she does some work for the Christian mission/relief agency she works for.

In communicating the Gospel there are several roads that we can take. Too often we take the easy road and just go about things like we always do. With some prayer, planning and hard work it is possible to do things a little differently in worship—things that are meaningful and powerful.


At 1:21 PM , Blogger the very left reverend said...

I appreciate your senstitivity to the different learning styles of folks. I pray that people can be truly let into the reality of Christ's birth as a result of your hard work.

At 8:38 PM , Blogger Alex said...

I like how you start this post, "If you do such and such, you have no grounds to criticize." Such a loving, open-minded approach.

At 8:59 AM , Blogger Pastor Lance said...

That may not have been the best way to start out my blog posting. It is too easy to start reading something, disagree with it and then just ignore everything else that is written (I know I am guilty of doing just that!). I was just hoping that people would read the whole post and not just stop reading when they found out how we transformed our sanctuary. It was not my intention to rub people the wrong way with the beginning of the post.

Pastor Lance


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