After finding the mess and cleaning it up, what now? Decorations! We’ve got to make the place look great for those who are coming. We want our welcome to be beautiful and our hospitality to breathtaking. So where do we start? What do we include? What does it matter?
If we’re mostly online, who cares what things look like? Right? Well, we do. Of course we do. Online is a visual medium. We have to see how things look – especially if we are looking outward, trying to see through the eyes of those who don’t know us, who aren’t yet able to look beyond the surface to see what is really important. What’s important, of course, is the nature of the community. What’s important is the condition of our hearts and the genuineness of our welcome.
Why do we decorate our homes or our sanctuaries? It could be argued that it is to show off, or to make us happy, to feel good about where we live and worship. That’s certainly not untrue. But the real impetus for decoration is invitational. How do we include others? How do we draw them in?
At least part of the answer is being our best selves. If we listen to John, that means that we are constantly pointing beyond ourselves. We are not claiming to be more than we are, but we are honestly revealing our brokenness, even as we invite other broken people to come and meet the one who can heal us, make us whole. So, let our worship be about pointing to Christ. Let our prayers be an invitation to Christ to come and dwell among us. Let our testimony be about the work of Christ in our midst. Let our celebration be the awareness of the presence of Christ. Let our commitment be to the cause of Christ and the opening of the doors until all can come and know his grace and redemption.
And what does all of this have to do with decorating? We reflect our inner experience with our outward appeal. When we are a place of joy and invitation and inclusion, our environment reflects that. When we are a place that understands the depth of pain and suffering, of the ugliness in our world, then our doorways open to a place of comfort and beauty and welcome. Having reflected on our need to address the mess, we now set about bringing beauty and light into the world.
What do we show in this season through the screens, in person? That’s the question that can occupy the thinking of the worship team this Advent, because we know that company is coming.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.