The holidays are often a time of remembrance so, in such a spirit, I recently wrote the following essay in an effort to recapture what was for me the most magical time of the year when I was a child.
It was, perhaps, even more special for me because I went with my father who washe minister as he made all the preparations for his most favorite service. He had a flair for the dramatic and so enjoyed creating events that would grab people by the heart. I hope the following captures a bit of that flavor
May you have a joyous holiday season and a wonder-full New Year.
Christmas Eve, 11:58 P.M. The church is silent and dark: the congregation quiet and waiting. The only light from outside comes through the stained glass windows, there are muffled sounds from the street. A minute goes by, and then another.
Suddenly, from the tower ten bells begin to peal as the carillon comes to life. It's midnight! It's Christmas! At the altar a candle flame springs up, lighting the poinsettias and casting flickering shadows on the walls of the church. A joyful voice rings out: "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace". There is a murmur from the people, a hushed awareness that Spirit has come. The gift has been given, the connection to God-made visible for all who would see.
For many, this moment, this holy drama, was felt deep in their hearts as the choir took up the Alleluias from the bells, and human voices joined the songs of angels. The light began to spread through the church, shining on individual faces as each person's candle was lit, until the room was full of light. In that moment the-Holy Presence was palpable and each soul shared in the glory and wonder of that precious event.
Finally, after the great hymn was finished, the candles were extinguished and the lights came on. People filed quietly from the pews, hushed at first and almost sad that the exquisite moment was over. But then the faces of friends, hearts aglow, warmed with Christmas greetings and happy wishes for the New Year. And departing, they carried in their hearts, for awhile at least, their felt connection with God and their belonging with the Eternal.