A Quiet, Profound Transformation, Ed Horstmann, Senior Pastor
In the weeks before Christmas the campus of Round Hill Community Church undergoes a quiet but profound transformation. Shortly after Thanksgiving, the pulpit in the Sanctuary is removed, and week-by-week a beautifully designed manger scene is installed—complete with crib for the Christ Child, hay for the animals, camels for the Magi, and a little lantern to chase away the darkness.
An Angel Tree is placed in the Parlor and on its branches are cards that include the names of children from a neighboring community and their simple wishes for Christmas. In the first two weeks of December members and friends of Round Hill Community Church purchase the gifts that have been requested and place them beneath the tree where they remind us that the reason for this season is to reach out to the world with love. In late November, the great tree in front of the Community House is strung with lights, and on the Sunday evening after Thanksgiving, the necessary electrical connections are completed and those lights spring to life, announcing that Advent is near.
These physical changes to the campus are important to those of us who visit the space on a regular basis to worship or work or attend a program. They might catch the eye of those whose daily travels take them along Round Hill Road. But to the wider world such transformations will go unnoticed. And so it was with the first Christmas. In the backcountry of a vast empire, a profound transformation occurred; a child was born to a family with barely the means to sustain themselves, let alone a vulnerable baby. And yet this seems to be the way that God loves to draw alongside our lives: off center rather than main stage, in the natural events and rhythms of life, in actions that add a little light here and there, and that make way for hope and generosity. God is with us and for us where we have prepared space to receive more love and faith and hope (even if those actions don’t make the news). God is with us and for us as we dedicate ourselves and our resources to the well-being of the world. “Let it be to me according to your word,” said Mary to the Angel Gabriel when he delivered the news of her role in the unfolding dreams of God. “Let it be . . .” she said, as if to say, “Yes, I will make room for your life in mine, for your hopes in my hopes.”
As we transform our physical spaces to make way for the light and music and beauty of the Christmas season, may we be just as dedicated to the preparation of our interior lives so that we can receive all that God intends for us, and bring light and life to others in whatever way possible. For as the old carol says, “Where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.”
The Advent Journey, Dan Haugh, Associate Pastor
“It” happened this year before Halloween. Perhaps it happened to you as well. I have heard rumors of it happening to some right after Columbus Day weekend. What is “it,” you ask? The moment when you realize that Christmas is coming! For some, the moment happens when you first hear a familiar holiday jingle on the radio. For some, it is when the local CVS removes the Halloween candy in favor of candy canes. For others, it is when the first Hallmark Christmas commercial airs, even when the temperatures hover in the 60s. It seems the arrival of Christmas is heralded earlier and earlier each year, which either increases excitement for some or adds to stress and anxiety for others.
We know “it” is coming and so the question is, how best to prepare? I am not convinced that the right way is by simply purchasing all gifts months in advance and making necessary reservations for holiday parties. In the busyness and chaos of the holiday season, I find myself more and more in need of reflection and solitude. I want to enjoy and embrace this season full of wonder, mystery, and majesty. The precursor to Christmas is the season of Advent. “Advent” literally means arrival, and during Advent we wait and prepare for the arrival of Christmas in our homes and in our hearts. We intentionally wait for the good news of the message and meaning of Christmas. Advent provides time and space each day (or at least on the four Sundays leading up to Christmas) to do so with thought and anticipation.
Below are a few suggestions for children, youth, families, and individuals to help guide your Advent journey and discover some ways to enhance your spiritual experience of Christmas and truly anticipate its arrival with joy and peace. I pray your season of waiting, preparation, and expectation is filled with meaning and memories and I look forward to rejoicing together this Christmas at Round Hill Community Church. – Dan Haugh, Associate Pastor
Suggestions for Your Advent Journey
Have an Advent Calendar in your home and read it daily:
Have an Advent Wreath and light a candle for each week of Advent:
First Sunday- Hope
Second Sunday- Peace
Third Sunday- Love
Fourth Sunday- Joy
Christmas Eve-Christ’s birth