Every year part of our preparation for Christmas is the greening of the church. We set up and decorate the Christmas trees. We hang wreaths and greenery. It involves a lot of doing and activity.
Some people are opening boxes and organizing the greenery. Some are on ladders hanging greenery. Some are putting Christmas trees together and others are hanging chrismons. Some are fluffing bows. People are outside attaching greenery to handrails. There is usually at least one person standing by, giving directions, and pointing out what needs to be done. A few follow behind and fix or rearrange what has already been done. And there is always food. We decorate and eat together. And afterwards we all admire the greened church and say how beautiful it is.
It’s a fun and good time. It’s a busy time. But what does greening the church mean? Is it only about decorating? Is it only about the color?
Hildegard of Bingen, a German Benedictine nun of the 12th century, declares, “There is a power that has been since all eternity, and that force and potentiality is green!”
She calls this greening power viriditas, a Latin word that may be the combination of two other words meaning green and truth. Hildegard uses viriditas to speak about the power of life and the movement towards healing and wholeness. It refers to vigor, vitality, and verdure. It is the power of God to green life. It’s not only about plants but also about us. “The Word,” Hildegard says, “is living, being, spirit, all verdant greening, all creativity. This Word manifests itself in every creature.”
What if greening the church is an outward expression of the greening God is doing in each of our lives? What if, as we green the church this year, we look for the greens being hung in our lives? I wonder what greenery we might find.