This year at Faith the service begins quietly, reverently with no gathering hymn. The worship leaders process in to the sound of bells. Not the raucous Christmas Day peeling of bells, but the slow ringing of one or two beautifully paired notes. We want to set a different tone for this season - to help people slow down, prepare, be in the space together. We hope that will help limit worldly distractions.
As the bells were ringing, I found myself taking deeper, slower breaths. I felt the ring of the bells echoing around the room. The muscles in my head and neck relaxed as the calm surrounded me.
Another planning decision was to incorporate the children in the preparing of the space and the mood. The children carried gold stars in the procession. They hung the stars on a beautiful wooden frame behind the altar. Their movements mirrored the slow quiet ringing of the bells. They reverently hung their stars which they could watch glimmer and shine during the rest of the service.
The stars were ordinary cardboard gold stars purchased at a teacher supply store. But as the service progressed and the light of the candles caught the slight movement of the stars, they provided their own sacred light to worship.
It is our prayer that this spirit of calm will not be limited to those 60 minutes on Sunday morning but will be taken out into the world with the people present. I find for me, it has. I still hear those bells ringing. I let myself breathe slower and relax into my space. Even as my busy life whirls about me, I have moments of sacred calm that are also a part of my day.
Advent is "the coming into being" as the Webster's definition tells us, not a coming into doing. My days, like yours, are filled with the doing of holiday preparation: list making, shopping, cooking, cleaning, oh yeah - and also my normal work schedule.
I need Advent worship and that unique slowing down which helps me come into being and prepare in a different way. I am grateful for that because as much as I want to and think I can do that on my own, I can't. I need my community at Faith Lutheran Church to slow down and "be" with me.