Advent as a season interrupts the typical Christmas rush of buying and wrapping gifts, attending parties, and wearing ugly sweaters. In fact, it asks us, at least in worship, to slow down and spend the weeks leading to Christmas in holy waiting. So, for four weeks, we did just that. Wearing purple as our liturgical color, we waited. Each week we lit a candle together, led by small groups in our congregation as we read Scripture – one for Hope, for Peace, for Joy, for Love. These beautiful reminders let us walk together toward Christmas in sacred reflection, and when we finally lit the Christ candle on Christmas Eve night, we knew we had fully prepared for this holy moment.
This year, we prepared in a special way, as members of our congregation wrote Advent devotions for each day during the Advent season. We read a variety of reflections about the themes of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. Each one reached into our stories and the Scripture to remind us of the meaningful depth of the season. We are so grateful to have such a thoughtful community to help us reflect during seasons like Advent!
Written by Libby Grammer
Waiting is hard. We don’t like to do it. The season of Advent teaches us to wait for Jesus to be born in the midst of hearing Christmas songs on the radio, and wanting to celebrate Christmas now! Advent reminds us to wait: to wait in hope, peace, love, and joy. River Road Church, Baptist families began the season of Advent with a party. We ate lunch together, and made wreaths together to remind ourselves of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love as we got ready for Christ to be born. Thanks to all who helped make the lunch such a success: Andrea Glaze, Tara Savedge, Kate Knerr, Sarah Heisler, Laura Lesher, Carol Cruickshanks, Julia Tyler, Buddy Sumner, and especially to Betsy Lowery for helping to plan the event.
Written by Kim Crowley
When youth and children tell the Christmas story, it can be holy chaos. Holy, because God shows up, both in Jesus being born, but also chaos in the wiggles and the giggles that commence until a reminder is given that we are telling a story, an important one. The holy chaos arrived this year, and it was a wondrous sight and sound as our children, youth, and college students took part in telling the story of the light of the world being born. I was so impressed at the music they learned, and the scriptures they read with ease and purpose. I am grateful to the hard work that the Cherub, Carol, Crusader, Youth, and Camerata choirs put in. I am grateful to the one youth and her flexibility to take on a new role in the pageant for another youth. I am grateful to the two youth who sent me an email the week before saying, “We’d like to participate in the pageant, what can we do?” I am grateful to the college students who said they would read scripture during the service. I am grateful to parents and grandparents who helped get costumes on, and sat with children during the service. Most of all, I am grateful for a church that embraces the night of the holy chaos in telling the wondrous story of Christ being born, and bringing gifts for others to take part in that story.
Written by Kim Crowley
Light of Christmas
Christmas Eve and Candlelight: this is a tradition held dear by churches because of its much-needed symbolism. First the acolytes bring light to the altar. Then the choir enters with lit candles. Christmas Eve is one of the shortest days of the year, and all those assembled lit candles shortly before midnight, almost exactly at the midpoint between sunset and the dawn of Christmas Day. This is a beautiful and meaningful conclusion to a season of preparation, Advent: keep in mind that we observed a crescendo of candle-lighting during that season.
The theme of light continues through Epiphany. On December 31, Nathan Taylor preached on the text of the Nunc Dimittis (from the Gospel of Luke), the reading that describes Simeon seeing salvation and light in the Messiah. On January 28, the choir and congregation sang Donald Pearson’s “Arise, Shine.” We read the Luke passage again on February 4, following by the singing of Sarah MacDonald’s setting of the Nunc Dimittis by our River Road Camerata – “a light to lighten the Gentiles.”
Evening and night time church services give us the opportunity to contrast our inner fear of darkness with the redeeming light of Christ’s entry into our lives. On Maundy Thursday and Tenebrae, we will extinguish the lit candles as a way to represent the darkness of Christ’s impending crucifixion. And then we will await the new life of Easter Day.
Light and darkness – and light again.
Written by Bob Gallagher
Originally published in the 2018 Spring Quarterly Explorer
On the cusp of Holy Week, we ask you to join us for another season of anticipation and patience.
This year, Holy Week begins this Sunday where we will celebrate with palms and look forward to the week ahead by learning about Christ’s Passion and death. But is only one hour of worship enough to reflect on such a momentous part of our faith? What can we do to deepen this week’s experience leading to Easter morning?
At RRCB, we have a few ways you can experience the intensity of what it means that Christ suffered and died before arriving on Easter Sunday. Will you join us?