Dear Members and Friends of Grace,
O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant! O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem; come and behold him, born the king of angels: O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord!
We all have memories of our Christmas traditions from years gone by. Some of these memories come from our childhood, from traditions started by our parents or grandparents. Then, as we got older and moved out on our own, starting our own families, we most likely kept some of those traditions and modified others to meet our changed situations.
As a child and youth, attending worship during Christmas was one of my traditions. My home congregation had two worship services on Christmas Eve, an early one that was for families with small children and a later one that was more traditional. There was also a simple Christmas Day worship service. I have fond memories of a sanctuary full of people on Christmas Eve, with the ushers having to set up extra chairs. I also remember the decorations, the candles on the window sills, the two candelabra in the chancel area, the candles on the pulpit, and all the poinsettias in front of the altar. I loved serving as an acolyte at the late Christmas Eve service because there were so many candles to light and we also would assist in the procession of the Gospel. I also remember the children’s Christmas play that I was a part of for many years (I was usually a shepherd or wiseman). However, my fondest memory was singing the entrance hymn. It was so loud and sung with enthusiasm. The entrance hymn was always O Come, All Ye Faithful. In that place and at that time, the sanctuary became Bethlehem, the faithful people joyfully gathered to meet Christ and celebrate the birth of the “king of angels”. The joy that I experienced on Christmas Eve was real and lasting.
It has been over two thousand years since Jesus was born in Bethlehem. We were not able to be there on that first Christmas night, like the shepherds, the angels, and even the animals. But each time we gather for worship, Jesus comes to be with us. In both the word and sacrament, we encounter Christ…or better stated Christ encounters us. Worship at Christmas does not take us back to Bethlehem but brings Bethlehem to us today. God’s love transcends time and place, for us, and that is what we experience in worship. God’s gift to us is that Christ meets us where we are.
As a child, it seemed like time moved much slower; it took forever for Christmas to come. Now, with all the personal and family demands, time moves much faster. Christmas is in two weeks. It seems that people always ask me if I am ready for Christmas. I am always ready for Christmas, I can’t wait for it to come. I look forward to worshipping with family on Christmas Eve and celebrating the birth of Jesus. It is energizing and joyous to have a sanctuary full of people (the faithful) gathered for the same purpose. Now, if they mean, did I buy all my gifts, have all the decorations out, bake all my cookies, and prepare for Christmas dinner, the answer would be no. Those things always fall into place, maybe not perfectly, but it all still gets done.
I am looking forward to seeing you all in worship during this Christmas season. On Christmas Eve, we will have two worship services, a family candlelight worship service at 6:00pm and a traditional candlelight worship service at 10:00pm. On Christmas Day, we will have a simple reflective worship service at 11:00am.
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!
Yours in Christ,
The Rev. Richard A. Kwiatkowski