Merry Christmas to you all! I hope that you all had a wonderful holiday, and spent it with your family. I thought that I would take a break from the personal finance information today, and instead tell you a little bit about one of my favorite Christmas rituals: my church’s Christmas Eve candlelight service.
Every Christmas Eve, there is a special service (actually two, one earlier in the night for those who have young children and another one later in the night). The services are pretty similar to normal Sunday services, although given the time of year and the joy of the season, it’s generally a more festive atmosphere. All of the hymns are more commonlC hristmas carols (From ‘Oh Come All Ye Faithful’ to open the service, to ‘Joy to the World’ as the recessional hymn; which I’m sure is not meant to a be a reflection of what people think as they are able to leave church). The gospel passages are all part of the Christmas story.
The centerpiece of it all is the candlelight service. Everyone in the church has their own candle, and near the end of the service, the pastor lights candles for two ushers who move down the center aisle of the church. Each person in the center of the aisle lights their candle, and then allows the person next to them to light their candle, until every candle is lit. The lights are turned off, and then, we all sing ‘Silent Night’ in a darkened church, reading our hymns by candlelight. At the last verse of the song, when the song talks of ‘radiance streaming, love’s true light’, everyone in the congregation takes their candles, lifting them above their heads, still singing, a hundred pin pricks of light burning through the darkness.
When that happens, I always, always look up, staring out over the congregation, seeing all lights shining out in the otherwise dark church. This year as I did so, my mind started to wax philosophic, thinking of how all the lights came from the same initial flame, and that, no matter how many candles were lit from the initial one, the lights were not diminished. Metaphorical thoughts of sharing knowledge flashed through my mind, and I ended up getting a little teary as I tend to do. If I had to pick one single moment that I felt most clearly represented everything I love about Christmas, that moment would be it.
What’s your favorite part of the season, everyone? I’m eager to learn what appeals to everyone about this side of the holidays.