Decking with love


Mark 1:1-8


What if we rethink what we’re celebrating? The season can be overwhelming, and the reason for the season can get lost in the shuffle. John the Baptist’s role was to prepare the way for Christ. Just as we deck our halls by decorating our homes for the holidays, we deck our lives with the true meaning of Christmas. We do this by showing love and providing a counter-option to the “bah humbug” attitude we could fall into this time of year.

Bulletin cover/worship slides:

If you are using our worship resources, use the bulletin cover and worship slides that say, “What if we Rethink what we are celebrating?” with the image of the baby Jesus and the star. Additional resources here!

Scripture thoughts:

This Scripture describes John’s role: to pave the way for Christ. Think about the opening song of “Godspell,” “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord.” John the Baptist sings this line repeatedly. As John sings, he shows love to the people with high fives, hugs and kisses on the cheek; then the floor opens and there is water. “In Mark, John has no independent message; his only function is to point to Christ.” (1) John was a pioneer, carving a path for Jesus by telling others about what was to come. He carried this message in a loving way; through his own humility, he lifted up the gospel. Imagine what he encountered as he told people the message in this Scripture. This week is really about using the biblical character in the Scripture as an example. We all have a little bit of John the Baptist in us waiting to come out. The theme is about rethinking Christmas. Sometimes, people need a good example to look to this time of year.

“Wesley understood the kingdom of God as a condition of the soul rather than a political entity. In ‘The Way of the Kingdom,’ he acknowledges that outward forms of worship have limited value as ‘occasional helps to human weakness.’ ‘True religion’ is characterized by Spirit-inspired joy, holiness and peace. It is not about rituals, they do not replace showing love in everything we do.”(2)


This week is about the tradition of decking the halls. Leonard Perry, a professor at the University of Vermont, said “decking the halls with boughs of holly” is an ancient custom thousands of years old. “The ancient Romans, Greeks and Druids,” he wrote, “all decorated their homes with this plant. The Romans considered holly to be a symbol of good will and sent wreaths of it to newlyweds as a token of good wishes and congratulations. Europeans, especially the British, continued the tradition of decorating with holly.” He added, "Every man's house, the parish churches, the corners of streets and marketplaces in London were decorated with English holly during the Christmas season. Even stables and beehives were adorned with a sprig or two.”(3) The article ends with the state of holly today. “Unfortunately, in the past, many hollies were destroyed by plunderers cutting wild holly with little concern for the owner of the tree. In the last few decades, holly orchards have been developed in the Pacific Northwest, where English holly will grow. In fact, that's where most of the holly sold in Vermont is grown.”

People decorated with these red berries to bring the holiday spirit to an otherwise plain environment. Decking the halls is a way to prepare your space for the holidays. Decking the halls has a rich history of infusing spaces, no matter how holy, like church parishes, or lowly, like stables. What if love were our bough of holly? This time of year, it is sometimes in short supply, but what if we could spruce up every nook and cranny with this powerful word? How can you mix this concept of decking the halls with the concept of preparing the way for Christ?

First, think what it means to deck. You may have heard or used the phrase, “You are all decked out.” It means someone is dressed in his or her best. He or she has taken the time to prepare for a special occasion. What if we could deck our lives in a way that showed everyone what Christmas is about? In order to explore this deeper, think about the phrase, “You go first.” What does it mean to you? This concept is all about setting an example or paving a path. (Recall a person in culture, for example, who has prepared the way for something.) Barbara Walters recently retired from “The View,” and many women were there to celebrate her career. Most told her how influential she was as a woman in journalism. She paved the way for other women, opened doors and changed opinions. Many people pave the way for others to do great things. John the Baptist carved a path for Christ. He was the model for the counterculture that was about to come with Jesus. His message was one of humility. “I am not worthy” was his famous line. He was all about living a life that reflected his love for others.

What can this concept of preparing the way by decking our lives mean for your congregation? How we help others to see the true meaning of Christmas or at least be reflections, so that others see the true meaning in us? How do we spread love? We get others to rethink what they are celebrating by showing them love still exists in real and lasting ways.

Advent candle reading: Love

We have a chance this time of year to show others that love is how faith is lived. We prepare the way for the one who is coming. When we face long lines, crowds and the grinches of the season, we always have a choice. This candle represents the love embodied in God’s choice to send someone for all of us. Let us deck our lives with a powerful emotion this season and fill spaces with the warmth of love.  

1  Boring, M. Eugene and Fred B. Craddock. Mark. The People’s New Testament Commentary, 107. Westminster John Knox Press, 2010.

2 Mark. The Wesley Study Bible, edited by Joel B. Green and William H. Willimon, 1208. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2009.

3  Perry, Dr. Leonard. “Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly” The Green Mountain Gardener, University of Vermont. Winter Article. Web. 

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