Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Christmas at the Prison Chapel

This ceramic nativity set looks almost exactly like the one at the prison chapel. I wish I could show you real pictures, but cameras are prohibited.

We left my little church promptly after morning service, calling "Merry Christmas" to my parishioners as we headed out the door. It had been a good service, with several visitors. I was already tired, but now we rushed to drive about twenty-five miles to the prison where my husband, Ken, is a chaplain.

For over fifteen years I have accompanied my husband "inside" on Christmas Day. The prison is lovely, by prison standards. It started out as a reform school for boys and evolved into a men's prison some years ago. It is nestled in rolling hills about ten miles from the nearest town. This prison is unlike other Wisconsin prisons. Instead of a square cement yard surrounded by razor-wire topped walls with four guard towers, the institution is deceptively school-like at first glance. But it is a prison, nonetheless, and if one has any illusions about that they evaporate at first sight of the intimidating chain link double fences topped with coils of razor wire, the seven guard towers, and the clanging gates. What started as a school for a few hundred boys has become a crowded prison for over 1,000 men.

Ken is already at the prison chapel. Our daughter, Kris, and her husband, Daryl, accompany me inside the gatehouse. The gatehous staff are polite today--oh good. This is not always the case, and I never know what to expect. These guards are efficiently pleasant as they process us through the metal detector and on through the gate. A prison van transports us past the block "units" where inmates are housed to the pointy-topped chapel. Having originally been part of a juvenile institution means that the prison's "chapel" is not just a space in some drab meeting room, as is the case elsewhere. It is actually a separate building designed for worship. This is an unusual blessing, and the inside has a bit of the feel of life at any church, anywhere.

We head for Ken's office in the chapel basement. Upstairs, we hear a volunteer, Father Joe, conducting a Christmas Day Mass. He has a nice cantor voice, and I venture up to listen for awhile, sitting in the back row. The chapel is decorated for the Christmas season with a nativity scene very much like the one pictured above. Flashing lights abound, a bit distracting for me, but a touch of color in an otherwise drab environment. A guady Christmas tree adorns the platform next to Father Joe as he stands at the altar table. Someone has draped the drum set with many strings of flashing lights, and I wonder if it bothers the good Father? "Peace be with you" says the elderly priest, as a guard's two-way radio squawks and crackles loudly in the rear of the chapel.

We will have two Protesant worship services today. My husband checks inmates in and Kris and Daryl shake their hands and welcome them to chapel. I hear, "Merry Christmas, Ms George!" "How are you, Rev. George? Good to see you...so nice to have your daughter here...Wow, she sure looks like her daddy..." "Joyful Christmas!" "Feliz Navidad!" "Blessed Christmas, Miz George and Chaplain George..." "This is my last Christmas inside, Reverend Pastor Mrs. George. Next year I will be home." "You all have a blessed Christmas!" "Today is Jesus' birthday!" No "Happy Holiday" greeting inside the prison chapel.

In spite of smiling greetings, there is an underlying air of sadness that shows in the men's faces--too deep for words but glistening in eyes--even as mouths smile. It is impossible to forget that the congregation is all male, is all dressed in an ugly green, is mostly wishing they were elsewhere.

When the first service begins, the place is full to capacity. The choir sings a gospel version of "Silent Night" followed by a rousing, handclapping version of "Feliz Navidad." Kris and I lead them in some carols interspersed with scripture readings from Luke. Daryl reads the Gospel with expression, and when he comes to the part where Mary says, "Let it be to me as you have said," he substitutes "Hey, NO way! Can't we talk about this?" The choir gasps a bit behind us, and then men begin to chuckle as they realize he made this "error" on purpose. Several of the men quote the scripture from memory along with him as he continues. The sweet presence of God is evident.

The choir director smiles with joy as they sing. This choir diector has been in prison a long time. He is always smiling and always working hard to direct the choir well. I don't know why he is incarcerated, but I know that the love of Jesus shines in his countenance and in his words and in his songs and in his firm handshake. The men sing with abandon and joy--something that always humbles and blesses me to hear and see. Some close their eyes. Some raise their hands, and some rock to and fro. The gangly keyboard player grins at me shyly. He seems about 6 years old as he looks at me and smiles and hopes for approval. Looking at his wide and very childlike grin makes my heart both glad and sad. There are far too many inmates that, to me, seem better suited to a group home environment. For a moment I wonder what landed him in prison. I am sure that someone talked him into something.

The second service is also full. It is much like the first, except the choir director asks me to come up and sing with them as inmates arrive. I happily sing the verses to "Go Tell It On the Mountain" and the men join me with gusto on the chorus. For some reason, I sing better at the prison chapel than I do anywhere else.

We sing the lovely worship chorus, "Hallelujah." One word -- but oh, so infused with praise and depth as the little prison chapel resounds with truly glorious harmony. Many men lift their faces heavenward and they sing like an angel choir. I smile for a moment, thinking of an angel choir of felons, but it is true that this simple song, sung inside razor-wire fences, blesses me like it does nowhere else.

For both services my husband preaches from Isaiah, "For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." His words are accompanied by occasional clapping, calls of "Amen", words of agreement and affirmation.

We close with Holy Communion. I offer the bread and Ken holds the chalice. As the men file past, dipping their piece of bread into the cup, I think of how amazing is the love of Almighty God. I love Christmas at prison because of the intense awareness it brings me of my own blessings, my home, my family--and grace--Amazing Grace.

As we leave the chapel we look just beyond the fence. Six deer stand poised in the snow. Some inmates are oblivious or indifferent, but others stop a moment to gaze with us before they begin the walk back to their units for the afternoon "count." We hurry to the van, not wanting to be caught inside during count, which would mean a significant delay. No one comes in or goes out of prison during count.

I always anticipate the worship services when coming into the prison, which I usually do several times each year. Today, as always, I am equally happy to go, happy and relieved to head for the parking lot and home to my brightly lit house and my Christmas tree and my leftover ham. Looking out the van window, I silently pray for God to bless the men, especially the ones with hungry hearts. I pray that lonely prisoners will find true peace and joy, that hope will be renewed. Almost every year I complain about my husband always having to work on Christmas Day. And every year I leave the prison feeling humbled, blessed and a bit ashamed for having complained.

The sky is grey. The men shuffle on the road. No one hurries in prison. Some smile and wave to us as the van passes. The van's windows are dark and the inmates cannot see us inside, but they know we are there, and they know we can look out and see them. "How like God" I think to myself. "The unseen Presence who watches them, and me, with both sadness and joy." My eyes fill with tears. Once again as it has so many times this Advent season, the scripture becomes real to me. "Emmanuel--God is with us!"

Friday, December 23, 2005

RevGal Friday Five: Christmas Music

1) If you had to choose CDs as a soundtrack for the Christmas season, what would they be?

The Messiah

I have a wonderful c.d. of the arias and choruses. I also have several cassettes of the whole thing, but the c.d. is so marvellous I tend to stick with it. Last week I was alone in the church office and I cranked the volumn all the way up to listen to it...."For Unto Us a Child is Born....." GLORIOUS!

2) How do you feel about singing all the verses of "The First Noel?" (Six in our hymnal, but apparently there are nine.)

Sing 'em all. One cannot have too much Christmas music.

3) "O, Come All Ye Faithful" has a lot of verses, too. Which is your favorite?

The first. I love the call to worship! JOYFUL and TRIUMPHANT! O Lord, may it be so in my lifetime!

4) What music do you play while opening presents?

None. Too much laughing and talking going on to hear the music anyway.

5) Which carols do you consider to be Christmas Eve essentials?

What Child is This?
Silent Night
Joy to the World

and a Bonus Question:

6) What, if any, is your favorite secular Christmas song?

Feliz Navidad

I like Jose Feliciano's version. But my absolute favorite version is not recorded. My husband is a prison chaplain. Each Christmas the English speaking and Spanish speaking (singing?) choirs combine for a rousing concert in the prison chapel. It is so joyful and fun and...amazing! More about prison and Christmas later.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Krystal Got to Play the Pastor Part

Not much time for blogging. But I had to share this. Last Sunday was the day for the church Christmas program. Among other Christmas offerings, the Children's Church presented a short play about the visitors from the East.

Towards the end of the play one someone came in to tie up the loose ends, story wise, and to do some teaching about who the "three wise men" really might have been. The children had all used their real names during the little play, so when this girl, Krystal, (one of our young teens) came in I thought she was playing--herself. After a few moments, one of the others kids said his line, "Pastor...."

Hey, Krystal was playing the part of --umm--ME! :-) Cool!

In how many Evangelical or Pentecostal churches this year did the pastor part get to be filled by...gasp...a GIRL? Wow. Little things make me happy.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I've Been Tagged by Dr. Platypus

With the following meme (and thanks, dear Doctor, for picking me as one of your two):

1. Pick two of your favorite blogs. Pick small-time operations--

2. Write a post on your blog saying something nice about each of your favorites. Be sure to include a link! Do not think of this as a full-blown "review," just a some kind words describing what you appreciate about this blog or some encouraging words for the blogger.

3. Leave an appreciative comment on a recent post the "target" blog. In addition to discussing and/or praising the post, add a link back to the post on your own blog.

4. Invite the "target" blogger to repeat the process by picking two of his or her favorite blogs--anybody but the blogger that did the tagging!

Okay then, here goes...my first pick is Noodling. The author is Patricia Gundry, the Queen of the Blogosphere. At last count she had 24 or 25 blogs and/or websites. Pat is an author, a cook, a wife and mom, a life coach, a friend to women preachers (and male ones too, for that matter) and an all-around amazing woman. Her book "Heirs Together" is required reading for couples who ask me to perform their wedding ceremony. Find a link to it on her blog. And lots of other great stuff too.

Second is RevGalBlogPals. This is a new blog for me, and I am still working my way through the list of bloggers there, but I admit I already have some favorites. The blogging Rev. Gals are a diverse bunch of women, and a few men too. So far it seems that they range from a Roman Catholic nun and several Episcopalians to Methodists, Lutherans, a Baptist or two to Pentecostals and several others. There's a chaplain, several senior pastors, a few in school...young, and not-so-young, married and sincle. They seem to be from liberal and conservative ends of the theological spectrum and all points in between. I already find some things I don't agree with, and much I do. Their Advent devotionals have been wonderful, and they are making me think in new ways....almost always a good thing.

Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays”

My friend, Dr. D.P. from Disert Paths gave me a shout that he coultn't post a comment. For anyone who may have tried to do so, SORRY! Somehow the setting got changed to "team members only" and there are no team members. I fixed it. And here I thought everyone was just too busy baking cookies and drinking egg nog and wrapping presents to read blogs. :-) Now, on to more important things:

Sorry I keep posting other people's stuff right now--but hey, it's Christmas time and I'm a busy pastor, wife, mom, daughter and....I'm swamped. Besides, this is REALLY good, in my opionion. I asked Brian, of Sermon Central, if I could share it, because I've been pondering this issue for days and I certainly could not say it better than he has. Thanks, Brian!

by Brian Mavis

How did Christmas get so complicated? I want to wish you a “Merry Christmas,” but that is “politically incorrect.” I could get sued by the ACLU. Of course if I say “Happy Holidays” there are some Christian groups who will come down on me with just as much wrath. I could get sued doing that too. It’s “Christianly incorrect.” Of course I’m speaking tongue-in-cheek. I’m a private citizen just writing an electronic newsletter to Christian leaders. But still, how did Christmas become so complicated? I think there is plenty of blame to lie on both sides.

In the political and business sector the word “Christmas” has been dropped in favor of “Holiday.” Governments have put up “Holiday Trees” in public places. Retailers wish customers “Happy Holidays” and hang banners selling “Holiday Trees.”

So how have some Christian leaders reacted? With lawsuits, boycotts, and petitions. Two groups, Liberty Counsel and the Alliance Defense Fund, have almost 1,600 lawyer-volunteers to fight this movement against the display on public grounds of Nativity scenes and Christmas trees – and even the greeting “Merry Christmas.” And it’s working. For example, Lowe’s home-improvement stores took down “Holiday Trees” banners and put up “Christmas Tree” banners. And House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., ordered the “Capitol Holiday Tree” be renamed the “Capitol Christmas Tree.” As Jerry Falwell told ABC News, “We’ve gone on the offense now. We’ve put them on the defense. We’re kicking their butts, and they’re unhappy.”

I think the Christian groups fighting for our civil liberties have good motives, but bad strategies. Lawsuits, boycotts, and petitions. Is this fighting the good fight? Is this what Jesus would do? Is this obeying, “If someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well” (Mt 5:40)? Is this applying, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does” (2 Cor 10:3)?

In addition, what are they fighting for? That we call a pine or fir tree a “Christmas tree”? There is nothing Christian or biblical about a Christmas tree. We are forsaking Christian principles in order to fight for man-made traditions. Go ahead and let Lowes, Walmart, and Macys sell “Holiday Trees”. It’s just crass commercialism anyway. It’s best that Christ’s name not get mixed up in that kind of capitalism. Do you think that these companies are changing back from “Holiday” to “Christmas” because they want to honor Christ? What a joke. They know it’s good business.

Lastly, these infringements on our civil liberties hardly amount to any legitimate persecution. I’d happily give up some of my civil liberties to honor the cause of Christ. Christianity is illegal in China and the Kingdom of God is growing like crazy. I think we (in the USA) could use more Christian persecution. Jesus said the world would hate us. Why are we so surprised and offended? And in turn, we are supposed to love our enemies and bless those who persecute us and to teach about Christ with boldness, but also gentleness and respect.

Christmas is about God sending His Son to Earth as a baby to be with us and die for us so we could be with Him and live for Him forever. That’s the Christmas I want to remember and wish onto other people.

I wish you that kind of Christmas.

© Brian Mavis 2005

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Church of Pooh

"Churches routinely refer to themselves as bodies or families. That makes the members parts of the body or members of the family. Not only do churches need each member’s money—as skeptics often accuse—they also need each member’s gifts and strengths. The world says a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, but the church says each link is strong because the whole body stands together. The older ones are there to teach the younger ones. The weaker ones can lean on the stronger ones. The body supports the individual so that each life is better." Connie Pursifel

What does this have to do with A.A. Milne, you ask?

That is the opening paragraph from "The Church of Pooh." It is a delighful post from the wife of one of my cyber buddies, Darrell Pursifel of Disert Paths. Hop or fly or bumble over there and read Connie Pursifel's entry. As a Winnie-the-Pooh fan from way back, her lovely post has me smiling and pondering at the same time.

I guess if I can write about Linus, Connie can write about Pooh.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Advent JOY

I posted this today at ECA and decided to put it here as well.

Phil 4:4-5
Rejoice always in the Lord; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near!

Real joy is born of eager expectation--hope. We are waiting for something good, in fact, something wonderful. Hope is a confident expectation. Hope knows that "this same Jesus" who came the first time will come to us again. Advent JOY, Christian joy, is joy built on that hope.

When I was a child I loved to hear my older sister, Darlaine, (who has a wonderful, expressive voice), read stories. There was something very nice about a new story or a new book. But there was something even more pleasing to me as a child, and that was hearing the same beloved story again and again. Both of us can still quote my entire childhood book of "The Three Little Pigs!" I knew, as childre do, that the big, bad wolf wouldn't be able to blow down the third little pig’s house of stone. Snow White would eat the apple and fall asleep, but the handsome prince's kiss would wake her, and they would live happily ever after. Hansel and Gretel would get lost, but they would find their way home again. Each story speaks of the shape of a world with meaning, where evil triumphs, but only for a while, for good at last will overcome it.

Yes, these are only a child's "fairy tales" and the biblical account of Jesus is amazing and deep and rich and true. Nonetheless, there is a sense of childhood joy in the waiting time before Christmas. Advent is a time when “Everybody is leaning forward to hear what will happen, even though they know what will happen and what will not happen, when they listen hard for meaning, their meaning, and begin to hear, only faintly at first, the beating of unseen wings.” (Frederick Buechner).

"In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Hail, favored one, the Lord is with you. But she was greatly troubled at this and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.' And Mary said to the angel, 'How can this be, since I have no husband?' And the angel said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God'” (Lk 1:26-35).

Like children listening to a familiar story, we know how this one ends. But each year we wait again to hear it. The Christ Child was born in Bethlehem, the angels filled the sky with their glorious song, shepherds hurried to the stable. Maji travelled from afar. We seek the meaning in the story, universal yet intensely personal. What is the meaning of this wonderful thing that happened and happens each year once more?

Newspaper man Andrew Greely once wrote:


Jesus was crazy. He came into the world with the nutty idea that human beings could love one another...Peace on earth, indeed! Maybe Jesus should have stayed home. He was wrong. We cannot love one another. The best we can do is keep the levels of hatred low enough so we don?t exterminate one another before we all die ...It was a great idea, of course. Too bad it didn’t work. Still...What if he wasn?t crazy? What if he was right? What if it is possible to love one another? What if the lion can lie down with the lamb? What if...Protestant and Catholic, black and white, young and old, male and female, can love one another without fear, without hatred,
without death and destruction? What if the crib scene is what the world is really all about and everything else is phony? What would it be like if Jesus knew the way things really were? What if life does triumph over death, light over darkness, good over evil, love over hate, comedy over tragedy...? What if...?

Advent joy springs from our sure and certain hope that one day our "What if...?" will become "It's true!"

"Rejoice always in the Lord, I say again, rejoice! For the Lord is near!"

We know how the story ends!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Gender Wars

"Peace on Earth" ahh,--does it include conquering the "War Between the Sexes?"

Dr. Timothy George recently wrote an interesting article in "Christianity Today" about the so-called gender wars. Read it here. Then come back and read this thought-provoking response by CBE president, Mimi Haddad

Egalitarian Heritage

As part of an organization that advances a biblical foundation for gift-based rather than gender-based ministry, I appreciate Timothy George's plea for "A Peace Plan for the Gender War"[posted Nov. 17]. However, it is possible that the "gender war" among Christians exists because people erroneously assume that biblical egalitarianism grew out of the radical feminist movement, identified with people like Mary Daly and Daphne Hampson. This is false.

Our history dates back to the great revivals and the "golden era of missions." Our foremothers and forefathers include individuals like Katherine Bushnell, Frances Willard, A. J. Gordon, Catherine Booth, William Godbey, Amanda Smith, Sojourner Truth, and Pandita Ramabai. All of these individuals advanced a biblical basis for women's equality in home, church, and society. They also sought to free women for gospel service, worked to liberate slaves, and labored for all Americans to gain the opportunity to vote.

Today's biblical egalitarians affirm most of the values of those who disagree with us on the place of women. We embrace the authority of Scripture, the sacredness of the family, and the centrality of missions. This has been true since the 1800s. What is there to war about?

Mimi Haddad
President, Christians for Biblical Equality
St. Paul, Minnesota

Friday, December 09, 2005

RevGals Friday Five: Snow

1) Snow: love it or hate it?
I love it. I just got home from Christmas shopping and the sun is sparkling on the snow--more coming tomorrow. I hate driving in it, and I hate shoveling it, and I hate it a LOT in March. But for now, I love it. Beautiful!

2) First snow memory
I grew up in Los Angeles. In the winter, Angelinos "go to the snow." That means heading for the mountains for a day of some fun with sleds and snow fights. My first snow memory is doing just that with my family, winding up into the San Gabriel Mountains.

3) Best Snow Day ever (actual or imagined)
Imagined, up in the aforementioned mountains, pine trees, plenty of food, roaring fire, a few games, no t.v. but a c.d. player and some good c.d.s, my husband...and then we get snowed in for a week and can't come home.

4) Best use of snow in a movie, song, book or poem.
Robert Frost's "Through the Woods on a Snowy Evening"....or isn't that quite the right name?

5) What you are planning to do today, with or without snow.
I just did it. I shoveled snow and then worked at the church a bit and then took my mother shopping. Later I'm heading north for a night in a motel (hopefully one with a hot tub and/or pool) with a friend. Our husbands are out snow camping and hunting with muzzleloaders along with other men from church. We decided it was a good time for some relaxing and then a morning of shopping tomorrow a.m.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Love According to Linus

But first, a quote from Dorothy Day, social activist and founder of the Catholic Worker movement. She died 25 years ago.

It is not love in the abstract that counts. Men have loved a cause as they have loved a woman. They have loved the brotherhood, the workers, the poor, the oppressed - but they have not loved [humanity]; they have not loved the least of these. They have not loved "personally." It is hard to love. It is the hardest thing in the world, naturally speaking. Have you ever read Tolstoy's "Resurrection?" He tells of political prisoners in a long prison train, enduring chains and persecution for the love of their brothers, ignoring those same brothers on the long trek to Siberia. It is never the brothers right next to us, but the brothers in the abstract that are easy to love.

And here is a quote from the late cartoonist, Charles Schultz, said through Peanuts character, Linus. Linus stands with thumb in mouth and blanket in hand, as he often does. The "balloon" over his head shares his thought.

I love mankind. It's PEOPLE I can't stand.

Dorothy Day and Linus have some insight in common.

The Bible tells us that if we say we love God but do not love our brother and sisters (those near to us) that we really do not love God. So I am pondering the question: Who is near to me that I am having a difficult time loving? I expect you have one or two of those too. I am going to find a specific way to love "actually" and not just in the abstract. Any ideas?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A Little Prayer from Merton

Thomas Merton's Prayer of Trust and Confidence

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road although I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Some Advent Whimsey

I've been feeling rather serious this Advent season, what with pondering church issues, postmodern-emergent issues, writing some Advent devotionals at ECA and also reading several of them each day. More about that later.

Meantime, I found this delightful little Advent calendar. It is not serious or deep or spiritual. It is short, sweet, and FUN!

You can find today's date, or you can click on any of the previous dates (so far, my favorite is the chicken) to take a look at Susan's creation. Find it here.

Friday, December 02, 2005

RevGals Friday Five: Decorations

This is what the top of our tree used to look like.

A Meme idea from the RevGalBlogPals site, with my comments, just because:

1) Do you display a nativity scene, and if so, where?
We have several. The one that always but always seems to get put out is a ceramic one made by my mother and aunt many years ag. My 89 year old mother now lives with us, and always says, "Oh...I remember when Pauline and I made those for everyone."

2) Do you put a skirt under the Christmas tree? If so, what does it look like?
Yes. It is a red fuzzy one with a white fuzzy edge. Ugh. Come to think of it, it is time to retire that one.

3) Do you hang lights on the house or put them in your windows?
Neither my husband nor I came from families that hung lights outside, and it would have been easy to do, since we were in warm, sunny Southern California. Now, DH goes into a frenzy of light hanging, and draping. It actually might not happen this year though. It is already December, and it is 11 degrees outside, and he is at work. If the outside of our house goes undecked it will seem very strange.

4) White lights or colored lights on the tree? Big bulbs or the small, pretty ones?

Colored ones, as many as possible. I like the big ones, but since we now put up a fake tree (ugh again) it has become the small ones. BUT there's a bunch of 'em, I can tell you that!

5) Do you have a tree topper? What sort? Who puts it on top of the tree?

See above photo, courtesy of freefotos.com. For a long time we had a hideously ugly red star (I told my husband it looked like Mars...I know...Mars is a planet, not a star, but still...) Now we have an angel.

The tree in our church sanctuary is really beautiful. Very tall, many tiny white lights and gold, burgundy and white decorations...balls, snowflakes, large angels. It is stunning. We usually put a nice nativity set in the entryway, but this year we moved it to the sanctuary platform. Tmis meant moving the pulpit to the side and removing the drums but I like it. In front of the altar area is a lovely round table, a gift this year from someone's father's estate. It holds our advent wreath and brass candle sticks with large candles. We have large wreaths in various places this year.

Since our sanctuary is rather plain (typical of Assemblies of God churches--no stained glass windows, etc.) this is the time of year that the sanctuary looks lovliest. We also have a bank of poinsedttias under our cross in front, and more near the Advent wreath. Maybe I'll try to take a picture.

So, what do you do for decorations at your place?