Our church building is fairly modern. It does not have as its inspiration the beautiful cathedral churches in Fort Wayne such as St. Paul's or Redeemer that fill me with awe. But in its more modern architecture, the builders were careful to retain classical Christian representations, and the windows have filled me with awe many times (we've always been blessed to be at churches with incredible windows). But for the most part, the building, the decor, etc. is simple and straightforward, with a few surprises (kind of like me....)
Last night, before the sermon began though, I found my attention completely absorbed by our chancel area. It was the first service with the tree set up, and for the first time, I became very aware how every aspect that was up there spoke so clearly of the presence of Christ.
At the foot of our tree, next to the lectern is the manger scene (a little blurry here) . Right now, it is simply the stable with a few animals. As Advent progresses, the stable will continue to have new arrivals until on Christmas Eve, it will be complete with the holy family and the shepherds. On Epiphany, the Magi will join them. But what caught my attention was the tree. We don't have Chrismons, instead, the tree is entirely decorated with angels. At this moment, it in perspective with the star overhead and the angels literally covering the tree, it truly reminded me of the whole heavenly host filling the sky. But not only that, it also reminded me of Christ's presence in the Old Testament promise, in the dream of Jacob's Ladder..
And he had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth
with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, "I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. Your descendants shall also be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you
and in your descendants will all the families of the earth be blessed. And behold, I am with you, and will keep you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."
Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it." And he was afraid and said "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God and this is the gate of heaven."
I'd never really thought deeply about how strongly this promise describes that baby in the manger and all the things around the chancel area. From the stable and the angels, my attention went immediately to the processional cross...a crucifix. The reason why He came in the first place. From that, to the resurrected Christ on the wall against the blue backround, reminiscent of the sky. Interestingly, it is impossible to tell if Christ is ascending or returning in glory. The communion veil, depicting a single candle against the deep blue background of Advent, reminds me that Christ is the light of the world, the light no darkness can overcome. Underneath, are the elements that with His word, will soon become His very body and blood, shed for me for the forgiveness of sins. On the lectern is the oil lamp reminding us of the bridegroom coming, and that we are the bride waiting, and our light is fed by the blood He shed. The eternal flame to the side of the tree reminding us that He is with us even now.
My attention is not usually absorbed so completely by visual elements. Sounds, words usually have a stronger effect on me. Tonight, I was awed by the magnitude and the simplicity.