As the youngest (by many years) of six children, my earliest and favorite memory of Christmas has always been Christmas Eve. Our family would attend our church service, usually taking up a whole pew, and I had many close relatives who were church members as well, so we presented quite a large group. It was especially wonderful to me since my older siblings, some of who had moved away, would come home on that day to stay and celebrate the holiday festivities.
I vividly remember watching out our large living room picture window for my siblings arrival, trying so hard to be patient! Once everyone was home, I felt such a sense of joy that our family was complete. After dinner we would dress for the evening service. The stained-glass windows never looked more beautiful than in the soft light of the evening. The flowers were so fragrant. The pews were filled with familiar faces and their visiting extended family members. There was a thrill of excitement rippling throughout the congregation; and I remember how respectful and quiet it was even though the church was filled to the brim.
We sat and listened to the beloved Christmas story from the book of Luke, mesmerized by the much-awaited miracle of Jesus’ birth. And as beautiful as that story is, the music was equally as touching to me to hear the beautiful hymns for this season. I love Christmas hymns; but none more than ”Silent Night”. The tradition was to light your candle during this song, and slowly stand to form a circle all around the pews until we were joined into one group, lovingly singing, our faces glowing by candlelight, surrounding the entire house of worship.
When all of the verses were sung, the church emptied silently. So powerful. That image still lives in my memory bank; feeling chills and gratefulness for such a peaceful moment of the miracle of our Savior’s birth. This experience throughout my childhood is one that I have strived to continue every year. And although every church has various traditions, being a part of a late evening service that brings back those feelings of joy, peace and chills of excitement is something I pray to partake in for many more years.