Candlelight: it’s one of my favorite traditions of Christmas Eve worship. When I was a child, my family would have dinner and read the Christmas story from Luke’s gospel from a heavy red-bound, gilt-edged Bible. We would open gifts, and then get ready for church. And as we approached the building, the lights would shine in the darkness, a beacon for those who passed by, beckoning us to come inside.
In the weeks that lead to Christmas we observe Advent, a holy season of preparation, a time of getting ready. We decorate our homes and the church. We gather for worship and special programs: the cantata, living nativity, children’s pageant, preschool program. We string lights and adorn the tree; currently, glitter sparkles all over my office floor as a result of my silver tinsel tree. We address cards and retrieve the mail with eagerness: Who will we hear from today? What news will the post bring?
These preparations bring tender moments, certainly. There are ornaments I cannot hang without feeling tears as I remember the loved ones who gave them to me, and who are no longer with us. There are dates I note quietly, naming those beloved saints at rest. I know I’m not alone in feeling the tug of conflicting emotions around the holidays; you’re not alone, either. Together as a community, we mark the changes of life – death, loss, illness – and that does not change at Christmas.
These days on Christmas Eve, as one of the pastors at All Saints, I light my small, handheld candle from the Christ candle before we sing “Silent Night” at the end of worship. The lights are dimmed, and I’m amazed at the reach of the light from this small candle. I cup the space around the flame with one hand as I move toward the first pew, inviting the person on the end to dip the wick of their candle into the flame I hold. And the light passes from one to another to the next.
In John’s gospel we read that “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” (1:5) When we come together for worship at Christmas, we join our light to Christ’s, and we shine for the world to see. We pass the peace and the light to each other, our voices singing joy to the world around us, hope for all to hear and see.
Won’t you join us?
We’ll gather for worship at 10am as well as 3, 5, and 11pm on Christmas Eve. You are welcome.
Peace and light,