Hanging of the Greens

Hanging of the Christmas Green
A Service for the Beginning of Advent

Monte Nabors and Kelly Yates
with additions by Dennis Bratcher

Opening Prayer

The Meaning of the Service

Congregational Song: Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

Christmas In America

Lessons of Christmas

Congregational Song: Hark! the Herald Angels Sing!

The Call to Celebration (Responsive Reading) – Pastor Dale

based on John 1:5 and Eph. 3:21

(Congregation standing)

Leader: Christ has come!  Christ was dead!  Christ has risen!  Christ will come again

People: This is the faith of the Church of Jesus Christ!

Leader: when we look at the world around us, we see the darkness of war, captivity, greed, and broken relationships.

People: We long for Christ to come again and bring light to our world.

Leader: The Word of the Gospel is that Jesus Christ lives among us, bringing truth and light as a present reality.

People: We worship as those who have a glimpse of that reality, and we long for its fullness.  We are those who labor to make Christ’s light more visible on earth.

All: Let us praise God, that the light of Christ shines on in the darkness, which has never overcome it.  To God be the glory in Jesus Christ and in the church forever and ever. Amen.

The Sanctuary Evergreens

Congregational Song: Go, Tell It On The Mountains

The Christmas Tree

Special Music: O Christmas Tree

The Christmas Poinsettia

Special Music: I Wonder As I Wander

The Paraments and Advent Colors

Congregational Song: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

The Advent Candles

Congregational Song: Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne

The Nativity

Congregational Song: O Little Town of Bethlehem,

The Gifts of Christmas

Congregational Song: We Three Kings

The Bells of Christmas

Congregational Song: Come On Ring Those Bells

Christmas Caroling

Congregational Song: Angels We Have Heard on High

The Christ of Christmas

Special song: The Birthday of a King

Concluding Prayer

The Blessing

Dennis Bratcher, Copyright ©, Dennis Bratcher, All Rights Reserved
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Sunday Night Thoughts

The short story — it was a long day, following a long holiday weekend.  The good news — it was a very satisfying day of ministry.  Last night, I spent trying to get caught up from being out of town for four days.  This morning Pam took Rebecca back to Roanoke to catch a ride to Southern Wesleyan.  She “Facebooked” us around 1 or 2 to let us know she was back at school.

We began our preparation for Christmas today by observing the First Sunday of Advent.  I was very pleased with how the service went this morning.  For the second week in a row, we had someone respond to the message by coming to the altar — that never gets old.

The afternoon was filled preparing the sanctuary for our Hanging of the Greens service.  One of my goals was to get the sanctuary tree up and decorated before we began our service — I am glad to say we accomplished that goal.  I try to make this service an interactive experience.  We use whoever shows up to read the various parts and we sing Advent and Christmas carols as we go along.  As the various readings are read, we decorate with that item.  This morning the sanctuary was lacking any decorations except for the Advent candles.  I do this on purpose, so people see the change the next week.  Also it signifies the desperation of the Jewish people who were awaiting the Messiah.  The weather made it all the more bleak.  It was a cold, gray, rainy morning on the Southside.  The good news again is the church is now decorated for Advent and Christmas.

After we got home, I spent sometime getting this blog up-to-date and uploading the media files from today.  I will post a brief outline of our Hanging of the Greens.  It comes from CRI Voice.  Here is the link to the full service by Dr. Dennis Bratcher.

Worship Recap

November 30, 2008
First Sunday of Advent

Call to Worship

Family:  For the time is coming; says the Lord, when I will place a righteous Branch upon King David’s throne.
Congregation:  He shall be a King who shall rule with wisdom and justice and cause righteousness to prevail everywhere throughout the earth. And this is His name: The Lord, our Righteousness.
Family:  For unto us a Child is born; unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder.
Congregation:  These will be His royal titles: Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Family:  His ever-expanding, peaceful government will never end. He will rule with perfect fairness and justice from the throne of His father, David.
Congregation:  He will bring true justice and peace to all the nations of the world. This is going to happen because the Lord of Heaven has dedicated Himself to do it!
Family:  The royal line of David will be cut off, chopped down like a tree; but from the stump will grow a Shoot – yes, a new Branch from the old root.
Congregation:  And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel and might; the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
Family:  His delight will be obedience to the Lord. He will not judge by appearance, false evidence, or hearsay, but will defend the poor and the exploited.
Congregation:  He will rule against the wicked who oppress them. For He will be clothed with fairness and truth.
Family:  And Christ became a human being and lived here on Earth among us and was full of loving faithfulness and truth.
Congregation:  And some of us have seen His glory – the glory of the only Son of the heavenly Father.

Lighting of the Advent Wreath
Song of Worship
O Come, O Come Emmanuel (Latin Hymn/John M. Neale)
Songs of Worship
Here I Am to Worship (Hughes); His Name is Wonderful (Mieir)
Special Music
Worship through Prayer
Worship through Giving
Song of Worship
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus (Wesley/Prichard)
Worship through God’s WordJesus Is the Wonderful Counselor [audio] [video]
Song of Commitment

Weekly Lectionary Reading

first-adventFirst Sunday of Advent
November 30, 2008

Isaiah 64:1-9; Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:24-37 24

“At that time, after the anguish of those days,

the sun will be darkened,
the moon will give no light,
25 the stars will fall from the sky,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

26 Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with great power and glory. 27 And he will send out his angels to gather his chosen ones from all over the world-from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven.

28 “Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. 29 In the same way, when you see all these things taking place, you can know that his return is very near, right at the door. 30 I tell you the truth, this generation[e] will not pass from the scene before all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.

32 “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. 33 And since you don’t know when that time will come, be on guard! Stay alert!

34 “The coming of the Son of Man can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. When he left home, he gave each of his slaves instructions about the work they were to do, and he told the gatekeeper to watch for his return. 35 You, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know when the master of the household will return-in the evening, at midnight, before dawn, or at daybreak. 36 Don’t let him find you sleeping when he arrives without warning. 37 I say to you what I say to everyone: Watch for him!”

For those of us who associate the season of Advent exclusively with Christmas, this might seem to be a very strange verse to start Advent.  As I preach tomorrow, I will explain the dual preparation of Advent.  Yes, we are preparing our hearts for the upcoming season of Christmas.  But in addition to that, we are making sure that our hearts are ready for the coming (or Advent) of Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  These are the warnings that are given here in Mark.  As we were riding home this afternoon, we were listening to a Twila Paris CD.  One of the songs on that CD is “Watch and Pray.”  Jesus told us we must stay alert for the Lord’s return, we have no idea when it will be.  Some may try to predict it, but that is not the essence here.  Jesus is warning us to have our hearts right, not to be checking out all the signs.  The question is, “Is your heart prepared for the Lord’s coming?”

Welcome Advent

advent005Today concludes the church calendar Year A. During worship tomorrow we will begin Advent. We are now on cycle B. It also marks two years of devotionals using the Revised Common Lectionary. Most Wesleyans now recognize the Advent, Christmas, and Easter seasons. Depending on the pastor, they might even recognize Lent and Pentecost. For the most part we are a non-liturgical church, but I like the idea of sanctifying the calendar (as a friend of mine put it.) I’ll be sharing a little more about during the coming week. If you are not sure about this Advent thing, I encourage you to check out a great series of posts on Advent. Here’s the link. I encourage you to make this Advent season special.  It is a time of preparation for the glorious season of Christmas.  Blessings…

Jesus Is the Wonderful Counselor

[audio] [video]

Last week we commemorated the last Sunday of the church calendar. We celebrated The Reign of Christ Sunday along with thanksgiving. This Sunday restarts the church year. As a point of reference, the church year begins at Advent which begins four Sundays before Christmas. You may or may not know that the church calendar is based on the life of Jesus. This is most noticeable during Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter. There are six seasons to the church calendar. Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost. Advent and Lent are similar in that they are both seasons of preparation for a grand celebration. Advent culminates with Christmas and Lent prepares us for Easter. The seasons following Christmas and Easter teach us how to live more like Jesus.

As I’ve already mentioned Advent is a season of preparation for Christmas. This is why we spend time before Christmas preparing for the coming of Jesus. Not only are we preparing our hearts to celebrate the first coming, when he came to Bethlehem and was placed in a manger…but Advent has a dual purpose – we need to prepare are hearts for Jesus’ Second Advent. We are promised in God’s Word that Jesus is coming again. This time he is not coming as a baby, but as Lord over all the earth. The traditional four themes of Advent are Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. For each one of these themes, we light a candle. The Advent Candles are arranged in a circle surrounded by the Christ Candle. They can either be purple or blue. In the church calendar, purple is typically a color of penitence, meaning it is a time when we look inward and ask God to cleanse us from our sins. This is why Lent tends to be a serious time. Advent on the other hand tends to be more joyful as we prepare our hearts for the coming Christ child. Blue speaks of the royalty of the coming King. So, we choose blue – it is simply a matter of preference.

As you look around the sanctuary this morning, you will notice that there is very little in the way of decorations this morning. This is on purpose. The first Sunday of Advent reminds us of the desperation of the Jewish people. They were waiting for a king that had been promised to them. When would he come? How would he come? Would he be a political Messiah? A financial Messiah? A spiritual Messiah? They had been waiting and God had been silent for over four hundred years. They were in despair…Where was their hope?

While we were living in Indiana, Rebecca and Anna were involved in a children’s musical called Angels Aware. This musical told the story of Jesus coming to earth from the point of heaven and the angels. Included in the delegation of angels were to who had already lived on this earth – Moses and Isaiah, representing the law and the prophets. In this musical Moses was depicted as grumpy and a not very happy. Isaiah on the other hand was optimistic. Moses comments that Isaiah seems to find the silver lining behind every cloud and calls him an optimist. Isaiah replies, “I can be optimistic, because I have something to be optimistic about.” Isaiah had a hope for the Jewish people. This morning we can have the same hope that Isaiah had.

For the next four weeks, we will be taking a look at Isaiah 9:6-7.

6 For a child is born to us, a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 His government and its peace will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!

A part of Christmas involves the giving of gifts. We exchange gifts mostly because of our love for each other. Think about what the average person will spend on Christmas gifts this year. Another fact of the gift-giving tradition must come from the original Christmas scene when we learn of the Magi bringing gifts to King Jesus – gold, frankincense and myrrh. Believe it or not, Santa Claus did not create the first Christmas list. God did. It involves four gifts for you and me and all who will receive them. God’s Christmas list for all is found in this passage in Isaiah. Let’s look at God’s first perfect gift made just for you: Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor.

How does the dictionary define wonderful? 1 : exciting wonder : marvelous , astonishing 2 : unusually good : admirable. Isaiah describes this coming baby as wonderful. Jesus is wonderful – Jesus is marvelous – Jesus is astonishing – Jesus is unusually good – Jesus is admirable. Why?

God sent his Son to earth. Why did he do that? Paul writes in Ephesians 1:

3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. 4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. 6 So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. 7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. 8 He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.

9 God has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill his own good pleasure. 10 And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth.

Through Jesus we can really begin to see God. Jesus is life, love, forgiveness, salvation, hope, dependability, grace, mercy, truth, and strength. We are reminded in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians that Jesus, who was in essence God, gave up those rights and came to earth as a human and was obedient to his father even to the point of death. That is a wonder-inspiring thought. We are reminded in John 3:16, that God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son Jesus so that whoever believed would not perish but have eternal life. That Jesus loves us like that and desires to know us should fill us with wonder. Not only that but Jesus desires to be our friend – Jesus is the friend of sinners – that is truly wonderful. As if all that weren’t wonderful enough, Jesus also desires to help us. It doesn’t matter what our past is like. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done – Jesus wants to help us and he wants to help us live the life that is pleasing to Him. That is truly wonderful. Jesus is wonderful.

But Isaiah also calls Jesus a counselor. Since we went to the dictionary for the word wonderful, let’s go again for the word counselor: 1: a person who gives advice 2: lawyer; specifically one that gives advice in law and manages cases for clients in court or an attorney at law 3: one who has supervisory duties at a summer camp. Let’s look at these. Jesus loves us and desires for us to live like Him. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus counsels us in how to live that life. The Holy Spirit gives us advice that we either follow or don’t. When we don’t follow the counselor’s advice, many times we get ourselves into trouble. Interestingly enough, Jesus told his disciples that he would be sending them a counselor, the Holy Spirit, to lead and guide them in their lives.

We also see that Jesus can be our legal counselor. Jesus desires for us to turn our lives over to Him and to let Him manage our lives. He will do things on our behalf just like an attorney does. He will speak on our behalf and he gives us advice on following God’s law, which we find in God’s Word, the Bible.

Believe it or not, Jesus can also be like our camp counselor, giving us advice, supervising us and keeping us out of trouble. One of the things about Jesus being our counselor is that He has no hidden agenda – there is no ulterior motive – Jesus simply desires to listen to us. He is the best listener that ever existed. Jesus does not second guess us and yet he is there to pick us up when we make the wrong choice

In the Old Testament, the word “counselor” means “to lead with a plan.” Jesus stands ready to lead your life – if you are ready to follow Him. In John 14:6 Jesus says, ” 6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. Jesus has always promised to be with us. What other counselor can do that? Jesus, being God Himself, knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows precisely what we need – even before we ask.

There is a gift with your name on it this Christmas and every day of every year. It is yours for the taking. The “Wonderful Counselor” has come for you. He may only seem like an insignificant baby, but He is God in the flesh. Let Him hold you. Allow Him to hold all things together in your life. Spend time with Him. He is listening. Tell Him everything – your praises; dreams; hopes; ambitions; worries; tragedies; disappointments. Ask Him to lead your life with His plans.

Let the Wonderful Counselor come to you this Advent. His amazing help and plan are God’s gift to you. He will never break, wear out or go out of style.


It is good to be back home in Martinsville, VA.  We’ve spent the last few days visiting family.  I’ll get those pictures up soon, maybe tomorrow night.  When I do, I’ll back post them with a link to them to keep everything in order.  It was good to be with both sides of the family.  We spent Friday lost in Washington DC several times and got turned around in Alexandria several times.  The trip home was very uneventful, for which I’m very thankful.

It’s time to get ready for worship tomorrow.  Blessings…more later…

Saturday Roadtrip (Repost)

I don’t know what happened to this post originally.  I thought I posted it, but it was in my drafts folder and I looked back and saw we never posted it.  This should have been posted on 10/19.  Sorry

Today we got the family up early so that Pam and Anna could attend a district Women’s Ministry event.  It was a bit of an adventure.  We went to use our credit card at the gas station this morning ($2.75/gallon on the Southside) and it declined it.  Not a good thing.  I called the bank and it turns out their was a glitch in the system.  When it was entered manually everything worked ok.  This put us behind and we got to Salem a few minutes late (with only one minor wrong turn.)

Pam shared at the luncheon how she ministers to military families and she has shared on this blog some of the ways we do that.  One church was excited to help and is going to help send packages this Christmas.  Very cool.

James and I decided to go find a hobby store (which was an exercise in futility.  He did show me several items he wants for Christmas, so it wasn’t all that bad.  We decided to have a guy’s breakfast at Waffle House.  We shared an All-Star breakfast and both of us were full when we were finished. We had a great time before we rejoined the women.

This is race weekend in the big city of Martinsville, but many of the sponsors have cut down on the amount of giveaways.  Well, its time to go prepare for worship tomorrow.  Blessings.

Here are some pictures of our roadtrip.

James standing in front of one of the few race cars out this weekend

James standing in front of one of the few race cars out this weekend

Women's Ministries Luncheon


District Director Lisa Shinn

District Director Lisa Shinn