By Janis Fontaine
You’ve heard the saying: You can’t please all the people …
But at Advent Lutheran Church in Boca Raton, the ministry tries to please everyone, especially at Christmas, one of the most important holidays of the year.
That’s why you’ll find a wide variety of programs or services on Advent Lutheran’s busy schedule.
“Our church’s mission is to reach every age and stage of life,” Pastor Andy Hagen said.
For a lot of people, Christmas is a very Joy to the World time of year, but to someone who lost a loved one in the previous year, Christmas may not be a joyous time.
“People may have lost the person they spent the holiday with, making the loss harder,” Hagen said. For those people, Advent offers a Blue Christmas service on Dec. 3 with words of encouragement and a candle-lighting remembrance.
It’s an outreach of the Advent’s Stephen Ministry, named for the Apostle Stephen, who spent time with grieving widows and orphans, Hagen said.
“These people build friendships with the grieving, one-on-one relationships that help with the transition after loss,” he said.
All volunteers, these friends fill a bit of the gap left after someone passes. “They love it,” Hagen said. “It’s a big blessing to us as pastors.”
Pastors are there at the beginning, but the Stephen Ministry picks up where the pastors leave off. These people are there months after loss and try to see the person through major events — such as the first birthdays and Mother’s Days — of that first year. And they love what they do, Hagen said. “They’ve been blessed so they want to share that blessing with others.”
Hagen knows that life events like losing a loved one or living through a hurricane can have deep impacts, and the reports of natural disasters and man-made atrocities on the news make it hard to be positive about the future.
“It’s a difficult time for a lot of people. It’s a season of vulnerability,” he said. “But the birth of Jesus is a story of vulnerability, too. They were homeless. Outcast. Refugees. Alone. It’s not all a happy Hallmark moment.”
But there’s room for that, too. Advent will celebrate the season with modern and traditional music and drama at many of its services and programs.
To those who are discouraged, Hagen says, “God is paying attention. He knows we’re worried. I try to stay faithful to what we do and remember God’s in charge.”
When you need help, reach out, the pastor says.
“We’re here, and the lights are on for you.”
Oh, and Merry Christmas.
Blue Christmas service: 8:30, 10 and 11:30 a.m.
Early childhood school Christmas program: 10 and 11:15 a.m. Don’t miss the living Nativity after the show.
Christmas Music Sunday with the Advent Choir in a program called “Let There Be Christmas”: 8:30 and 11:30 a.m.
Praise Band Christmas program: 10 a.m.
Advent’s elementary and middle school Christmas program — 6 p.m.
Worship service: 10 a.m.
Family worship service with the children’s candlelight processional and family fellowship following: 4 p.m. Snow is expected to fall.
Contemporary candlelight service with Communion: 6 p.m.
Candlelight service with Communion: 10 p.m.
Worship service: 10 a.m.
Janis Fontaine writes about people of faith, their congregations, causes and community events. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.