As a child, I had the advantage of growing up in a church community with long-standing Christmas traditions. Long before the Halloween decorations came down and the last piece of Thanksgiving pies were joyfully eaten, plans were underway for decorating the Sanctuary, gathering Christmas Carolers to visit homes, making costumes for the Christmas pageant and deciding who would have the best roles (a sheep or an angel)! All this excitement made up the Advent Season and successfully competed with any of the Santa Claus helper sightings at the local mall.
One special year it was decided the Children’s Choir could sit and sing with the Adult Choir at the Christmas Eve Service. I was chosen to sing the first verse of “Oh Holy Night.”
The church was decorated with fresh greens and roping. Candles glowed in the windows making beautiful shadows on the baby Jesus tucked in the crib. Narcissus, with their petite white flowers and delicate scent, and bright poinsettias surrounded the altar. I could hear the shuffle of parishioners getting comfortable in their seats. My parents’ and grandparents’ faces were anxious and proud hoping I would not forget the words. I had been practicing every day for weeks but, as often happens, that morning I woke with a scratchy throat. Finally just as the lights dimmed, leaving only a gentle light shining on the baby Jesus, the organist began playing the introduction to “Oh Holy Night”. It was magical! As members of the Children’s Choir in Angel costumes surrounded the baby Jesus, my voice began the beautiful lyrics as only a child’s voice can … “Oh Holy night! The Stars are brightly shining, it is the night of our dear Savior’s birth”.
I hope this Advent season you are filled with child-like anticipation of God’s renewed promise of that Most Holy Night.
Mary G. Park Neureither