Original Artwork by Jessie Houff, Community Art Minister

Adorn (3rd Sunday of Advent)
Preacher: Jessie Houff Scriptures: Isaiah 61:1-4…8-11 and Psalm 126

Now we are going to go back in time…for most of us at least. This section of the service isn’t just for Ayuba. It’s for all of us and the children we used to be. There’s something about Christmas that turns me into a young person. I marvel at the lights people put up at their homes. I delight in special sweets. I curl up on the couch to watch nostalgic Christmas movies and drink Hot Chocolate with marshmallows. While everyone experienced Christmas differently as a child, I want us all to imagine ourselves as 2 or 5 or 7 as we listen to storytime today.

Now storytime may be over but I want everyone to keep experiencing Christmas as a child – for right now, today, and moving forward. I love this story because it shows amazing spirit. Clayton and Desmond wanted so badly to find the biggest tree and decorate it so beautifully for their families. Not only did they meet their goal, but they exceeded it by involving both their families and the entire community.

Decorating is something we do every year for Christmas. We get a tree and adorn it with ornaments and lights. We get out indoor and outdoor decorations to make our entire homes look and feel like Christmas. Santa trinkets, garlands, candles, stockings…my mom has boxes upon boxes of decorations she gets out every year. It takes days to get everything out just perfectly. Christmas is a time for family traditions. We spend so much time bringing things out and making our homes and trees beautiful. But what about ourselves? No, I’m not talking about “ugly” christmas sweaters or red and green pajamas. I’m talking about deep down. How do WE become more beautiful on the inside?

Our scriptures this morning bring up a different kind of decorating…

“He has clothed me with the garments of salvation…covered me with the robe of righteousness  as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. ”…give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning…

These are beautiful visuals to me. What does a robe of righteousness look like? What is a garment of salvation? It’s not something you see but rather something you feel – something you experience. How do we adorn ourselves with goodness so we can spread joy this holiday season? 

There’s also imagery of giving back to nature and sowing seeds:

“Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves”

I loved the story we heard during Children’s Time, but it did bother me that such a big beautiful tree had to be cut down…why couldn’t they just decorate it at the tree farm? How long would a tree that big last after being cut down? Also, how on earth did they get it to stand up on that hill?! It’s a kid’s story…so whatever, but then I thought, “well, I go to a tree farm and get a tree that’s been cut down to take it to my house, so…I guess I can’t talk bad about kids doing the same thing…” 

But it did make me think. We do cut these trees down every year. So how do we give back? Do we literally go out and plant more trees? Sure, some of us do. But what can we do that gives back in a different way? We can adorn ourselves with a robe of righteousness. We can clothe ourselves with garments of salvation. We can put on a smile. After all there is that saying, “you’re never fully dressed without a smile”. We shout “Merry Christmas” to our neighbors and while we can’t literally invite them indoors right now, we can always share a conversation on our front stoops. We can share pies. We can share our virtual choirs and orchestras thanks to Jacob! So I ask again: How will YOU spread joy this holiday season? How will you adorn yourself? 


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