The sanctuary of our small church basked in an atmosphere of expectation as the minister lit the last candle in the advent wreath. Beautiful glass lamps hung from the wooden-beamed ceiling, their light glowing on the aged walls. At night, the sanctuary took on a mysterious air, the stained glass windows subdued to darkness, the world outside waiting the light of the world. On Christmas Eve, we waited for the true Light of the world, and the place became magical to me.
We heard the story of Christmas interspersed with songs like The First Noel, Oh Come All Ye Faithful, and O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. I don't know about you, but I always found the experience of the shepherds the most wonderful. Imagine. These hard working men spent an ordinary day tending their flocks. Maybe they fought off a predator or sought out fresh grazing land that day. Did God watch them with glee knowing they would receive the ultimate birth announcement that night? If anyone told them that morning that a multitude of angels would announce the birth of the savior to them that night, what would they have said?
And then, the moment arrived, and there was light all around them.
In our Christmas Eve services, the ushers turned down the church lights, and we focused on the flickering candles at the front of the sanctuary. One by one, we shared our light, voices lifted, singing Silent Night. Candlelight reflected off our upturned faces and the eyes of those around me sparkled with the joy of Christ's birth and the wonder of this special moment.
More than Santa Claus, more than Christmas gifts, more than feasts, this one event still remains my favorite moment of the season. And last night, I slowed down enough to experience it again.
What moment of the season holds that moment of peace, joy, and awe for you?
May you find it all year round. Merry Christmas!
(This is a repost from December 2011.)