Rev. Becca Girrell, pastor at Lebanon United Methodist Church in New Hampshire, shared this story about the church’s 2015 Advent theme.
Our Advent theme is "It Takes a Village." We are recalling the Nigerian proverb that it takes a village to raise a child. Jesus was a child – a remarkable one, but still a child – and the people in his village, his neighborhood, his context, were important in understanding how and why his birth and life changed everything.
This theme is communicated with a beautiful altar display, created by Cathy and Terri Munsey-Ballou. Each week, the service begins with a sacred dance, choreographed by Chris Topolewski and Jen Wellman. The dancers then also light the Advent candles.
The sermons in this worship series focus on different people in Jesus' "village." We began with the prophets – prophets of old like Jeremiah, and prophets at the time of Jesus, like Anna and Simeon, each of whom was eagerly awaiting God's Incarnation and God's justice. We ask ourselves, how are we called to be prophets today – to be those who hold out hope in the face of the violence and injustice in our world? We shine a light of scrutiny upon this violence and injustice, but also the light of prophetic expectation.
Next, we celebrated Joseph and his radical decision, when her learned of her alleged infidelity, first to divorce Mary quietly, and then not to divorce her at all but to join with her in marriage, and to raise their child together, even naming Jesus as his own son. Such love breaks barriers and shatters the conventions and expectations of the world. Where are we called to love like that in the world today – to forgive and draw in those who have wronged us, or those whom society preaches are unworthy of love?
Our look at Jesus' village continues with the powerful women of Jesus' family – Mary and her kinswoman Elizabeth. Here we see two people who, in the eyes of their world, are worth little to nothing. Too old or too young, too barren or too inexplicably pregnant, and certainly too female to be holy in the eyes of others, nevertheless, Mary and Elizabeth rejoice together that through them and their children, God lifts up the lowly and humbles the haughty. We too are called to break free of the narratives that we're not good enough to be God's servant people, and proclaim hope in unexpected places and through unexpected means.
Finally, we await with unbridled, childlike joy the Word proclaimed through children and children-at-heart in our intergenerational Christmas Drama of the Nativity. Jesus' village usually included people living together in family and tribe groups that spanned generations, a practice all but absent in our so-called modern world. If we can live with child-like joy and wonder, and if we can live as beloved community of all ages, perhaps we too can continue to be the sort of "village" into which Christ is born again and again.