It’s Christmas Eve. What a wonderful day – a day of expectation. Tonight, John and I will attend a special Christmas Eve church service that will involve candlelight, communion and carols. I cannot wait.
I have been to many different kinds of Christmas Eve services and have enjoyed every one. Growing up, our church did not have a special service on this night, but had a special event earlier in the month. John’s family always went to church on Christmas Eve. They would go to the 11:00 pm service; and, when the service was over and they walked into the cold night, they would look to the heavens and know that it was Christmas morning. What a wonderful tradition.
One Christmas Eve, John and I went to the Protestant service at the NAS Pensacola Chapel. It was interesting because we watched two special friends as they served their congregation. Although these two amazing people are not pastors or staff, their volunteer service that evening included making sure that the sound system was working, greeting attendees and handing out programs, doing special readings during the service and cleaning up the communion cups after the service. Those two were everywhere that night and their service did not go unnoticed.
Even if you are not planning to go to a special service, you can make tonight special in your own way. If you are alone, take a few minutes, turn off the TV, light a candle, pray, go outside and look into the sky, and spend some time considering that night so very long ago. Remember, reflect and rejoice.
And, if you are with family tonight, you can offer a few minutes of quiet. Perhaps just asking those gathered to mute the TV, put down the cookies, and gather into a circle. You could share a few words about how you love and appreciate each one and that, on this special night, you want to take a couple of minutes to thank God for His gifts of love and salvation. Ask them to hold hands in a circle of caring and then you pray a prayer of thanks. It might feel strange and some may giggle or be uncomfortable, but don’t hesitate to say thanks. You never know when someone in your circle needs to be reminded of the reason for the season or be given a chance to reflect on God’s grace.
I have a friend who grew up in a family that did not celebrate Christmas. To them, Christmas involved gifts that they could not afford and decorations that appeared only in the movies. Their first Christmas with their in-laws home was a shock. They not only marveled at the time and trouble that the family went to in decorating the home, preparing holiday foods, and gathering presents; but that the family spent time in prayer. My friend had never felt as loved and welcomed as they did that Christmas Day. And, faith was presented as love, not rules or disobedience or separation from God.
As you gather with those you love, read the Christmas story from the Bible (go to Luke 2 and Matthew 2) and pray out loud. Don’t lose this special chance to grow deeper in your love for God and for each other.
And, as you pray, remember the name given to Christ: Emmanuel – God with us!!
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)