I wanted to engage the community living and working near the church in a collaborative project at Christmas. With winter weather, earlier evenings, and busy schedules, that can be challenging. What I came up with was our “Christmas Tree of Hopes.” People passing by our tree were invited to take ribbon from the box and reflect on their hopes for the coming year. Their hopes could be for themselves, a loved one, the community, or the world. Then they tied their ribbon onto the tree.
A member of our church constructed a “tree” for us which was essentially a large metal base with a pole in the center and cord strung form the base to the top of the pole to form a cone shape. Lights were wrapped around the form and secured in various places. I have seen similar ready made trees of lights made so that the lights spiral up the height of the tree for sale as outdoor Christmas decorations. One of these, or several depending on the size, might work well for this project. Another option would be to use a live Christmas tree. Whatever you choose, I would make sure it is secured with tent pegs or something to keep it from tipping over in inclement weather.
To hold our ribbons and display the instructions for our Tree of Hopes, we purchased in inexpensive brochure box such as a real estate agent might use. It was easy to set up, protected our ribbons from the elements, and provided a handy slot for our message. We bought a few spools of ribbon at the craft store, and refilled the box with cut ribbons as needed.
The first Sunday of Advent, which is Hope Sunday, we kicked off our Christmas Tree of Hopes by inserting a ribbon into each bulletin and encouraging the congregation to tie their ribbons on the tree after the service.
Could this project be done during this time of pandemic? Community events are scarce, and Hope very much needed, so it would be nice to find a way to make it possible. One option might be to have the ribbons stored in a way that participants were less likely to spread germs by touching them. Perhaps having the ribbons tied to a nearby fence, lattice, or garland would work. Passersby could then untie a single ribbon from the display of ribbons without contaminating the others, and then tie that ribbon to the Tree of Hopes.
At Christmas, as we celebrate Christ’s coming for the world that God loves, it’s important to be at work outside the church in that world. On the face of it that sentiment seems obvious, yet most of the time Advent and Christmas planning for the church has centered on what will be done to entertain and engage its members rather than the people outside the church’s walls. What goes on inside the church should not stay within the walls of the church. Instead it should empower and inspire believers to get outside those walls and love the world the way God did long ago in Bethlehem.