Join us in TEMPE every Sunday morning at 8:50 for Sacred Space or 10:00 for our traditional service.

Parament or Parement: from Late Latin paramentum, adornment, parare, to prepare, equip); a term applied by ancient writers to the hangings or ornaments of a room of state. Subsequently, it has referred to the liturgical hangings on and around the Communion table, as well as ecclesiastical vestments.

We presented our lovely new Advent paraments in our Nov. 29 online Sunday celebration. They were a gift and labor of love by seasonal visitor and retired UM elder Rev. Lynda Ellis of the Wisconsin Annual Conference. Lynda fondly refers to the wall hangings, tablecloth and stoles as her “COVID project.” Beyond their quilted artistry, I was struck by how exquisitely they complement the stained glass windows.

You may be wondering about the color blue. In an effort to distinguish between Advent and Lent, some denominations, including the UMC, have suggested blue for the color of Advent. While Advent is a time of preparation and introspection, for a number of years many Christian churches have shifted the emphasis of Advent from a penitential season, such as Lent, to a celebration of hope and anticipation: blue, the color of the sky as the sun rises on a new day brimming with promise.

By the way, we will continue to use our previous Advent paraments – which depict the star over Bethlehem on a field of deep purple – on Christmas Eve and the Sunday after Christmas. They were beautifully fashioned by Patti Lewis a number of years ago in memory of Sally Butler’s father, John Kemmerer.

With gratitude to Rev. Ellis, we dedicate these new paraments to the glory of God and trust they will enliven and inspire faith among many. As I shared in our First Sunday in Advent service, my only sadness is that we are unable to appreciate them in person this year. But, especially with news of effective vaccines, I am confident and hopeful that we will be worshipping together again in person next year!

Which brings me to Christmas Eve. For several months the staff and I have agonized around offering meaningful in-person Christmas Eve services during the pandemic. In late October, when the positive-case numbers seemed to be on the decline in Arizona, we began preparations for limited, outdoor candlelight services in the courtyard. When the numbers began to rise, we regrouped and started planning “drive-in” services in the parking lot. However, because the University of Arizona COVID-19 Modeling Team is now urging government leaders to order Arizonans to shelter-in-place until at least Dec. 22 to avoid health catastrophe, we have decided to keep our services on-line only for the foreseeable future.

The pandemic has taken a toll on all of us in so many ways. Some have lost loved ones and friends to the virus. Others have lost their jobs. Health workers and essential services folks have been stressed beyond measure. And we all know heartbreaking stories of those in the hospital, unable to receive visitors. Few have been untouched by its devastation. And yet there is reason to hope. People are taking precautions, reducing exposure, showing concern and care for others. Medical advances have shortened hospital stays and reduced mortality rates. And now there are at least two promising vaccines. We have come so far with an end in sight. I am inclined to stay the course, confident that we will be able to worship in-person – without putting anyone at risk – sometime next year. Blue, the color of the sky with the rising sun – the Dayspring – hope for a new day brimming with promise. May it be so!

– Pastor Jeff