Thursday, December 23, 2010

What Makes Christmas?

I believe we all have certain things that we do which "make" Christmas.

As a child, it was walking into our living room on Christmas morning to see the gifts and stockings then traveling to Grandma and Grandpa's house for a meal and more presents.

As time passed it was Christmas Eve dinner with my immediate family, reading the Christmas story from Luke 2 before we opened gifts and then going to church. 

A few short years, it was midnight worship that "made" Christmas.

Now, I am an ordained pastor.  I've got three children.  I can see what "makes" Christmas for them, and it's heartwarming to see their excitement and joy during this time of year.  But, even as I watch my children and their joy, it doesn't "make" Christmas for me. 

For me, I have to have Christmas Eve worship.  I simply cannot do without it.  It "makes" Christmas.

There is a different air about Christmas Eve worship.  People seem to walk into church with a different attitude.  They seem to know something is different about this night.  I seem to know something is different about this night.

Greetings seem to have a warmth about them.

Troubles are momentarily forgotten.

We enter the worship space, and the world is closed off.

Hatred is put to pasture.

Griefs are laid to rest.

The world is shut away as worship begins.

Children call and cry.  No one objects.  This is the night of a child's birth.  Their noise reminds us of this.

There's a little more volume in the singing.

My sermon usually has a little more "oomph" to it.

Folks reverently come forward to receive the Sacrament.

And the excitement builds as we prepare for the lighting of the candles to sing "Silent Night."

I begin reading John 1, "In the beginning was the Word...the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it."

The Sanctuary is filled with a holy light.  The congregation is illuminated with a holy glow.  The saints in heaven and on earth lift their voices and sing of the birth of Jesus.  "Christ the Savior is born!  Christ the Savior is born!"

Candles are extinguished, the lights come on, and we burst forth with "Joy to the World!"

Christmas is here. 

I know others have different things that "make" Christmas for them.  I do not begrudge them one bit.  Each thing makes the day and celebration special. 

But I have to worship.  Nothing else comes close.

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