Advent Across the Church of God: A Christmas Tradition Continues
By Carl Stagner
There’s something about a Christmas carol, a lighted tree, or a scented candle that ignites the imagination. Even decades removed from childhood, sometimes a mere symbol of the season is all it takes to renew the wonder of Advent. Kimberly Majeski, executive director of Christian Women Connection, recalls some of the special traditions that augment anticipation for the holidays. As the Christmas season dawns, her recollections and reflections resonate with many in the Church of God who fondly remember observances of Christ’s birth both in the pew and on the sofa.
“I have a large extended family and grew up very close with all my cousins, aunts, and uncles,” Kimberly explains. “As children, we would gather in our crushed velvet outfits, gorge on sausage balls and cocktail shrimp, and watch the skies for Santa on Christmas Eve. We ran around and played games, chased each other until our sides hurt from laughing but, at some point, in the evening, my uncle Cliff would gather us, turn out all the lights except the Christmas tree, and read to us the story of Jesus’ birth from the second chapter of Luke.”
Ah, the quintessential biblical account of the nativity. Many a Church of God girl and boy knows the story well, thanks not only to Sunday school, but also to the “Uncle Cliffs” of the world.
Kimberly continues, “It is those traditions of gathering with loved ones and finding ways to connect my own child to the stories of Jesus coming into the world that now ground me as an adult and a parent. I want my son to always remember laughing hysterically trying to catch Reddi-wip “snowballs” in his mouth, and I want him to remember the toy nativity set that he arranges every year at the foot of our tree and the story of love that goes along with it, the story of a God who came into the world in an unexpected way through the most unlikely folks.”
Memories are, of course, not hard to come by, especially concerning the holidays. Some are pleasant, some are difficult to bear. But the traditions of Christmas that surround church life have helped to ground the family of God in what matters far more than the cultural icons of the season. For Kimberly Majeski, that’s translated to coming alongside hurting members of her church family to spread a little Christmas cheer.
“During the height of COVID,” Kimberly remembers, “while we were all locked away in our homes and so many of us were concerned for family members and friends who were ill or grieving loved ones, my surrogate parents Joe and Margo Royer invited my family and me to join them for an evening of Christmas caroling. Another sweet friend of ours was due to have surgery, and several from our church had recently lost spouses, and so the Royers had arranged for those of us who were able to come along and bring some cheer. My husband and I brought along our son (it was his first experience caroling). We gathered there that night on our first stop outside our friend’s home who had lovingly welcomed so many of us across the years, cooked meals, invited us in, and been family to us all. As she and her husband and daughter came outside while we sang “The First Noel,” I don’t think there was a dry eye among us, touched as we all were with the spirit of Christmas, of what we all meant to each other and the gift of community that exists beyond the ravages of disease and despair. We sang, we prayed, and we were all renewed as we visited the homes of folks we loved who needed a bit of hope shared with them, and we were blessed and reminded what it was to be ministers of the gospel of Jesus in unexpected ways.”
One of the staple traditions of countless Church of God congregations across the United States and Canada over multiple generations has had an international impact. Advent candlelighting, families presenting thematic readings to begin Sunday services during December, children bringing coins to place in a manger at the front of the church—these and more have become symbols of the season in Church of God settings. These and more find their source in the creative, steady leadership of Christian Women Connection, formerly known as Women of the Church of God.
The first Church of God movement-wide celebration known as Christ’s Birthday Observance took place in 1949. Seven decades later, the Church of God initiative organized by Christian Women Connection is still equipping congregations across North America and beyond, mobilizing the collective support of the movement for the advancement of the kingdom globally, and moving our hearts and minds to the manger. Thanks to the fresh inspiration and new resources available in 2022, Church of God pastors, music ministers, choirs, worship teams, and local CWC ministries are nearly ready to welcome the most wonderful time of the year.
So, what are you waiting for? Resources aplenty are available for download at https://christianwomenconnection.org/cbo-2022-materials. This year’s theme is “Entertaining Angels,” based on Hebrews 13:1–2, and resources include Advent readings, sermon starters, promotional material, ideas for community engagement and service, plans for a prayer initiative, Christ’s Birthday Observance offering information, and much more.
Learn more about Christian Women Connection at www.christianwomenconnection.org.