Hanging of the Greens Service
Hanging of the Greens Worship
*Hymn: "Angels from The Realms Of Glory"
The Legend of the Evergreens (Reading #1)
Hymn: "O Come, All Ye Faithful"
Hanging of the Greens (during singing)
Note 1: The last statement in the reading presumes that some of the greens (i.e., wreaths high on walls, etc.) have already been hung; if this is not the case, the last statement should be modified.
The Story of the Crêche (Reading #2)
Hymn: "Joseph, Kind Joseph"
Place figures of Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus during singing.
Note 2: The figure of Joseph is placed during stanza 1, Mary during stanza 2, and Jesus during stanza 3.
The Singing of Carols (Reading #3)
Join in the singing the first verse of these familiar carols:
"Away in a Manger"
"Angels We Have Heard on High"
"Silent Night! Holy Night"
"Hark, the Herald Angels Sing"
The Christmas Candles (Reading #4)
The Poinsettias (Reading #5)
HS 232 or 233
Hymn: "O Little Town of Bethlehem"
Note 3: An alternative selection could be a soloist singing "O Holy Night" instead of the hymn. Place poinsettias during singing.
Saint Nicholas: The Spirit of Christmas (Reading #6)
A Candymaker’s Witness (Reading #7)
Note 4: If children are present, invite them up front to hear the story and then let them distribute the candy canes to the congregation.
Hymn: "Go Tell It on the Mountain"
Distribute candy canes during singing
*Hymn: "Joy to the World"
*Prayer of Christmas Blessing
Reading #1: The Legend of the Evergreens
When all the earth is brown, evergreens stand in lonely vigil until the earth again is green. Evergreens shout to us about the hoped-for coming of green again, reminding us of joyous hope, the eternal presence of the Christ child.
Legend tells us that long ago, evergreens were not forever colored with verdant leaves. Before the birth of Jesus, the evergreen was bare like other trees around. Let’s begin the legend with events recorded in the book of Matthew.
An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, telling him to take the infant Jesus and his mother to Egypt until it was safe for them to return. Herod was sending his soldiers out to kill the baby. So Mary, Joseph, and Jesus left the security of their land and journeyed to Egypt without telling any of their family.
Over rocky hills and dusty roads they traveled wearily, Mary and the baby on the back of a donkey, Joseph walking beside them. They traveled all night and into the next day. Mid-afternoon, Joseph noticed dust in the distance behind them. Fast-riding soldiers were coming; soldiers sent by Herod to carry out his dreadful mission.
Where could they hide? Where would they find protection? The hillside was barren, offering no shield. Quickly, Joseph guided Mary and her child into a clump of cedars on a hill. Immediately, the bare cedar twigs greened with color, thickened with growth to shield the holy family. The white berries of the cedar turned to sapphire blue to match the robe Mary was wearing.
Herod’s soldiers went right on past, never seeing, never knowing that Mary, Joseph, and the infant Jesus were safely sheltered in a clump of green cedars with berries of sapphire blue.
Since that day, cedars and plants like them have never shed their leaves, never lost their green, for they sheltered the holy family. Evergreen, everlasting, eternal; green branches are part of our preparation—a symbol of hope, a reminder of love received. Evergreens are a symbol of the eternal and everlasting God.
As the remainder of the greens are hung in the sanctuary, please join in singing "O Come, All Ye Faithful."
Reading #2: The Story of the Crêche
The story of the Christmas crêche, or nativity, goes back many centuries. Saint Francis of Assisi made it popular. He spent his life preaching, caring for the poor and sick, and teaching people to see beauty in all creatures.
Saint Francis tried for many years to explain the Christmas story to poor country folks. While they enjoyed the holiday feasting and merrymaking, they never could understand the true meaning of Christmas.
Finally, in 1223, Saint Francis thought of a plan. He sent word to the towns and countryside near Assisi; "Come and keep Christmas with me." So on Christmas Eve, he led the people to a rocky cave near the town of Creccio. They carried candles and torches to light the way. When they saw the surprise Saint Francis had prepared for them, they cried out in wonder. There in the cave was a manger filled with fresh hay; a live ox and donkey stood beside the manger; real people took the parts of Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds, and a life-sized wax baby lay in the manger.
Saint Francis explained the story as he showed it, how a poor king born in a stable had brought hope of a better life to everyone. His listeners now began to realize the beauty of the Christmas message. The cave rang with music as he led the worshipers in joyful singing.
The next year, these people set up their own manger scenes. The custom quickly spread throughout Italy, and then on to other parts of Europe. It helped make Christmas more popular among poor people and country folk.
The first crêches were very simple, often using live animals and people. Through the years, these figures have been made from wood, clay, wax, or other materials. Animals have always been in these scenes. Legend has it that animals also traveled to Bethlehem to worship the Christ child and at midnight the night he was born, they were able to talk.
While our crêche is nearly complete tonight, it is lacking three main characters: Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus. Each of these figures will be placed in our crêche as we sing the carol, "Joseph, Kind Joseph."
Reading #3: The Singing of Carols
"On Christmas night all Christians sing,
To tell the news the angels bring."
So says an old carol, and sing we have, from the fourteenth century onward, with words that were sometimes tender and sometimes merry, but always simple and honest, set to happy tunes that suggest joy and happiness.
Many of the traditional carols were composed between 1400 and 1700. In the eighteenth century, the town Waits often carried these tunes from door to door, lighting their way with lanterns and playing upon wind instruments. Originally the Waits were simply watchmen who patrolled the streets and called the hours during the night. Later, though, the name was commonly applied to the town musicians who played for processions and civic occasions. At Christmas, they walked the streets with music, and were suitably rewarded by the householders outside whose homes they played.
The Waits have gone now, carrying their oboes, clarinets, and fiddles away with them into the past, but carol-singers still go on their rounds. Sometimes it is a trained choir or a glee club or perhaps a group of children that sings the traditional songs. Or it might be a group from our congregation, representing all ages, who travel by car to the homes of friends, sharing the spirit of Christmas through the gift of music.
May we continue to find the meaning and beauty of Christmas in the singing of carols. We will now sing the first verses of four familiar carols as we express the joy of celebrating our Lord’s birthday.
Suggestions: "Away in a Manger" HS 232 or 233
"Angels We Have Heard on High" HS 237
"Silent Night" HS 244
"Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" HS 252
Reading #4: The Christmas Candles
The Christmas season is symbolic of light, beginning with the star, that guided the wise men to the manger where the Christ child lay, then following through with the brightness of his life on earth.
The light of candles has always been considered as the symbol of enlightenment Jesus brought to earth, and Christmas has a natural association with that tradition.
Jesus said, "I am the light of the world." He also said, "You are the light of the world. Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven." So the Christmas candles illuminate our souls and we carry forth the message of that light in our lives.
When you light the Christmas candle, when you see its golden glow,
When you watch the flame grow brighter, when the wax begins to flow,
Will you light another candle way down deep within your soul?
That will help you guide your footsteps even nearer to your goal?
As you seek to find the Christ child when he comes to earth again,
To be born, not in a manger, but within the hearts of all.
Light the candles in a worship setting or around the sanctuary.
Reading #5: The Poinsettias
In the past two hundred years, a new element has found its place in our Christmas celebration. From the Christian practices and symbols in Mexico, this tradition has been adopted, that of using poinsettias to decorate our church during this Advent season.
In the early part of the nineteenth century, the first United States ambassador to Mexico, Joel Robert Poinsett, admired the dramatic beauty of the bright red poinsettias that grew rooftop high and bloomed profusely at Christmas. He brought cuttings of the plant back to the United States.
What astounded him even more were the stories that Mexican Christians told of why the bright red poinsettias were part of their celebration of the birth and life of Christ.
The story goes like this: The Bethlehem star shone over the manger where Jesus was born. Its light was so bright that the earth responded, reflecting that starlight, mirroring that starlight with a beautiful flower: star-shaped, radiant- shaped, pure white petals, golden star centers. In Mexican lore, it was always known as "Flores de Noche Buena," the Flowers of the holy night.
It grew on earth as a creation to glorify and commemorate that Holy Night. Then came the tragic day when Jesus died on the cross and the blossoms changed. Pure white petals remembered the sacrifice of the one born when the star was over Bethlehem.
Flowers of the holy night, star-shaped, radiant-shaped, blood-red petals, star flowers for the holy night. Now in our day, poinsettias are everywhere: on cards, on trees, in our homes, and in our churches, reminding us once again of a holy night, pointing to a Good Friday. As the youth bring the poinsettias to the front of the sanctuary, let’s sing "O Little Town of Bethlehem."
Reading #6: Saint Nicholas: The Spirit of Christmas
For many people around the world, Christmas is Santa Claus, that jolly old elf. But, is Christmas Santa Claus? Does Santa Claus really belong?
He has many names: Santa Claus, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, Saint Nick, Saint Nicholas. Once upon a time there was a real Saint Nicholas. He reflected the hopes and needs of people since earliest times.
Born in the area where Jesus was born, Nicholas became bishop of Myra while still a young man. The stories of his deeds, from the fourth and fifth centuries, are factual. He calmed a stormy sea and became patron saint of sailors. He saved three boys from death and became the patron saint of children. He gave a dowry to three young women and became the patron saint of the poor. He convinced the captain of three grain ships to give part of his cargo to the poor. They gave and gave to feed the hungry, but their ships remained full. He became patron saint of the hungry.
He became the symbol of giving, giving to those in need, sharing with others, a symbol of human longing and fulfillment of human need. Those who remembered Saint Nicholas kept the tradition of giving and sharing alive. From parent to child, from sailor to shopkeeper, from priest to altar boy, the story was told.
So, Santa Claus is real. He’s not just an American symbol, created by Madison Avenue, packaged and marketed like other Christmas merchandise.
Santa Claus, as we know him, was revived in Holland in 1508 on December 6,
the anniversary of the birth of Saint Nicholas, bishop of Myra.
Sinterklass Day, December 5, is celebrated to remember Nicholas, bishop of
Spain, who rode a white horse through the Dutch countryside, giving potatoes to
starving men and women, and figs and raisins to the children. the people
were starving because of a war between the Dutch and Spain.
Since that time, December 5 is a day of giving to meet human needs. Children still look for Sinterklass on his white horse to bring gifts to their homes. As Dutch settlers came to the United States, they brought Sinterklass with them, and he has grown over the years.
While Santa Claus now lives at the North Pole and travels with reindeer, the symbols of giving, giving to the needy, giving of self where there is want, is the true meaning of Santa Claus.
Saint Nicholas: from Myra, to Spain, to Holland, to America, every Christmas for 1700 years. The spirit of Saint Nicholas lives when we give, give of ourselves, giving to meet the needs of others.
Reading #7: A Candymaker’s Witness
A candymaker in Indiana (U.S.) wanted to make a candy that would be a witness, so he made the Christmas candy cane. He incorporated several symbols into the candy cane that represented the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus.
He began with a stick of pure white, hard candy. White symbolized the virgin birth and the sinless nature of Jesus, and hardness symbolized the solid rock, the foundation of the church, and firmness of the promises of God.
The candymaker made the candy in the form of a "J" to represent the precious name of Jesus, who came to earth as our savior. It could also represent the staff of the good shepherd, with which he reaches down into the ditches of the world to lift out the fallen lambs who, like all sheep, have gone astray.
Thinking that the candy was somewhat plain, the candymaker stained it with red stripes. He used three small stripes to show the stripes of the scourging Jesus received, by which we are healed. The large red stripe was for the blood shed by Christ on the cross so that we could have the promise of eternal life.
Unfortunately, the candy became known as a candy cane, a meaningless decoration seen at Christmastime. But the meaning is still there for those who have "eyes to see and ears to hear." May this symbol again be used to witness to the wonder of Jesus and his great love that came down at Christmas and remains the ultimate and dominant force in the universe today.
Tonight we’ll share candy canes with everyone, a candy that is a witness of our Lord. The youth will help pass them out to everyone. Whether you eat it or put it in a prominent place, remember the symbolism that is used in its preparation.