Where Will You Look?

Mary Johnson, Children's Ministries and Director of ATB&B

     People, look east. The time is near
     Of the crowning of the year.
     Make your house fair as you are able,
     Trim the hearth and set the table.
     People, look east and sing today:
     Love, the guest, is on the way. 

     Angels, announce with shouts of mirth
     Christ who brings new life to earth.
     Set every peak and valley humming
     With the word, the Lord is coming.
     People, look east and sing today:
     Love, the Lord, is on the way.

This familiar Christmas hymn suggests that people look east because Love, the Lord, is on the way.  It is a little hard to miss that this blessed occasion that we call Christmas is on the way. Everywhere you go there are what some would call the signs of the season. From brightly decorated trees to glittery decorations lining streets and malls and airports - the "signs" are everywhere. I know that for this year, one sign of the season is not a red coffee cup offered by a national chain. Oh my goodness. How could that happen!

More profound is lack of any sign of Love, the Lord, in the horrific and senseless acts of violence around the world. So, where to look? I will look right here: in my family and in the loving community of Holy Comforter this Christmas to find the signs of the season.

We have amazing traditions in my family. One of them is a Christmas Eve "Eve" dinner with close friends when we celebrate Christmas and Chanukah. We used to have the dinner on Christmas Eve but when I came to Holy Comforter and was responsible for the Children's Pageant on Christmas Eve, it was too much to try and do both events on the same evening. So our dinner with friends got moved to the 23rd - thus being named "Christmas Eve Eve." The two beautifully decorated trees in our home (a living room and family room tree) and the menorah on the table represent the bonds of our friendship and faith. Our living room tree is predominately filled with ornaments from our Jewish friends and we all join in the singing as the menorah is lit.  I guess for me, it is an image that I wish were more prevalent in a world with so much turmoil.

The services on Christmas are beautiful examples that Love, the Lord, is on the way. Beginning with the Christmas Eve Pageant, the excitement on the children's faces - in their whole bodies - that they are going to tell the story of the birth of Jesus! Lines will be missed, entrances not quite on cue, and some Angels may have lost their wings along the way, and it is still a fabulous presentation. Two more services on Christmas Eve include traditional hymns sung by an accomplished choir and string accompaniment. There is also a liturgy on Christmas morning. When I was growing up, the Christmas morning service was the one we attended. As I have mentioned in a previous Dove article, we did not open a single present until we had gone to church. For a family with eight children, that was no small task. But it was a priority for my parents. And I am so grateful for that grounding: the lesson about what is the priority in celebrating Christmas.

So when I look for signs of the season, I will look to my past for the love shown by my parents and the love that surrounds me today in my siblings. The love in my own family now and the traditions we have established with our daughters. The blessing of dear friends. And in a faith community that extends a warm welcome to all who come through the doors.

Whether Holy Comforter is east or north or west or south from your home where you will be celebrating Christmas, if you are able, come sing with us. Love, the guest, is on the way!