October 23, 2017

Open Mic at the iMonk Cafe: Christmas Worship 2008

It’s traditional here at Internet Monk to have an open thread on the topic of your experiences in Christmas worship. We want to hear your stories. What was outstanding. What was awful. What was full of the meaning of the incarnation. What was lost, given up or thrown away. Was the great opportunity to focus on the incarnation appreciated or wasted?

Christmas usually brings out the best and the worst in our various traditions and approaches to worship. Let’s hear what you saw and heard (or didn’t see and hear) at this year’s Christmas worship services.

Comments

  1. Midnight Mass at St. Ann’s Mission in Manchester Ky with my wife (who is the RC) and several family and friends. A handful of people and a very simple service. An elderly, retired priest gave a very eloquent and moving homily simply telling us that Jesus is unseen (or seen by only a few), but nonetheless real in history and in our salvation. Really, this is what I want to hear on Christmas. It’s all real, and he is all we believe him to be. I’ve been to services where liberal Protestants denied the divinity of Christ in the midst of singing the great carols and preparing to have communion. I appreciated the usual reverence, the saturation in the voice of the scripture, the intensity and the dignity of worship. Most of all, I appreciated being told the beautiful, unadorned truth of the incarnation.

  2. We had to meet in the aerobics room, again, because the YMCA staff always re-polyurethanes the floors in the gym where we usually meet. Michele and John sang “Mary Did You Know,” while the rest of the worship team backed off–Michele had a hard time with the bridge if the rest of us played. Steve gave a theatrical and stirring first-person account of the birth of Christ from the viewpoint of Mary’s father. Made us all wonder how we have rejected Jesus in our lives.

    But the best part was that we were there. We were supposed to be in Seattle, with family. Instead, we were stuck in Colorado, in a room of unrelated relatives.

  3. Jenny Bluett says:

    A Pentecostal brother visited mass this morning and scared one of the faithful, more stoic, octagenarians of our parish when he turned to her out of the blue after the gloria and said loudly “Jesus loves you!”.

    He also threw in a couple heartfelt “Amen. Hallelujah!”s during the reading from Isaiah.

    I had to smile.

    Fr. preached a wonderful, gospel-filled homily on the gloriousness of God with us and waxed beautifully in an impassioned, poetic declaration of the worth of Christ.

    Frustrating, he had us confess the creed incredibly slowly. I believe he is desirous of us to be more contemplative corporately but it succeeds in making me mess me up and drives me to be more self conscious of my stumbling and bumbling in the awkwardness. Oh well, keep trying.

    After discovering he was running fifteen minutes over time, he had to rush through the liturgy of the Eucharist in order make it for the mass ten miles down the road.

    As always, sad being separate from my family… sigh :…)

    Merry Christmas,
    Jenny

  4. At our Christmas Eve service we heard a great Jazz version of We Three Kings. Just Piano and Guitar. It was a nice departure from the traditional carols.

  5. Well, the best thing about being an Eastern Christian at Christmas is the mystery of the Troparion (hymn) for the feast of the nativity of Our Lord:

    Thy nativity, O Christ our God,
    has shown to the world the light of wisdom;
    for by it, those who worshipped the stars
    were taught by a star to adore Thee
    the Sun of Righteousness,
    and to know Thee, the Orient from on high.
    O Lord, glory to Thee

    That Troparion is repeated many times throughout the Divine Liturgy, and it really lets the profundity of it all sink in. Those who worshipped the stars were led to Christ by a star…awesome!

    So that, the incense, the icons, a great homily on the fact that whatever the new year holds for us Christ has come in the flesh and will see us through it all, made for a pretty great worship experience.

    Almost enough to get me past the world’s squirmiest two-year-old in my lap!

  6. Scott Miller says:

    After being a loyal reader of IM for the last year, this Christmas I wanted to go to a Christmas Eve service. Unfortunately, there are not many Protestant services. Many churches don’t have services, and most (even the Lutheran churches) had services earlier in the evening instead, when we were celebrating with family. I could only find one, a Prebyterian church, with “Vespers” service at 11:00 PM. Then began the evangelical queries from my wife – “We don’t go to that church. Why would you want to do THAT?”
    We never made it there last night.

  7. We stayed home. We’ve recently been through a Conversion, and are exhausted by the effort. The kids are not in the same place about where our new church home should be (not denominationally, but specifically) and I disagree with both of them, and my husband is convinced that we’ve all become … silly about it all. We talked about Jesus, and then I cried, which I always do, in a happy sort of way, then they went to bed. I watched the Pope on TV and felt much better that I had connected to the Church and I went to bed. Everyone woke up way too early. I’ll be OK til Sunday when we confront this family conundrum again and then I’ll wonder about how heavy this Conversion is weighing on my family and our faith journey (though not our faith) and how to put in practice the three years that it took me to come to this Conclusion. It was much easier when I was just reading books.

    A blessed season to you all, and thanks for the blog,

    Joel

  8. I hate to say it, but this has been a tough Christmas for me. I’ve found it very difficult to get into the spirit of the holiday, which has been easier in years past. Some of the more uplifting moments I have had didn’t occur in church.

    Here are a few of them:

    1. One Sunday morning I went to our local hospital (I usually go there to pray in the chapel). This particular morning there was a group of local flutists there playing Christmas carols (both sacred and secular). That was really uplifting to me.

    2. I got to reconnect with an old friend who is going through a bad divorce right now (I guess there is no such thing as a good one). I bought her lunch one day and I think just having a friend to talk to really made her day.

    3. Watching some of the old Christmas shows/movies on TV. I have 2 in mind. Every year I watch A Christmas Carol (1951 version) which is my favorite Christmas movie. Among other things it is a reminder that we cannot serve both God and money. The other is an old black and white episode of Dragnet called “The Big Little Jesus” about the theft of a statue of the infant Jesus from a Catholic church. The ending is very moving when the identity of the “thief” is revealed.

    4. Rereading the story of the annunciation in the gospel of Luke.

    I won’t demean the word worship by calling any of those things worship (with the possible exception of #4), but they were meaningful to me.

  9. Christmas Eve service was Lessons and Carols but Christmas day service was a Divine Service with Holy Communion. One of the hymns that we sang was
    “ O Sanctissma”

    1. O thou joyous day, O thou holy day,
    Gladsome Christmas is here again.
    When the world was rent and torn
    Christ was born on Christmas morn,
    Shout your joy to all the world
    Ye Christian Men!

    2. O thou joyous day, O thou holy day,
    Jesus comes to us again.
    In the bread His body here,
    In the wine His blood to cheer
    Shout your joy to all the world
    Ye Christian men!

    3. O thou joyous day, O thou holy day,
    Gladsome Christmas is here again.
    From the realm of heaven
    To the bread unleavened
    Comes the Savior of the World
    Ye Christian men!

    4. O thou joyous day, O thou holy day,
    Christ’s own body and blood for you;
    This His gift He giveth
    And our sins forgiveth
    On this joyous, on this gladsome
    Christmas day!

    5. O thou joyous day, O thou holy day,
    Let us therefore His praises sing.
    Angels round His throne above
    Sing with us His song of love
    On this joyous, on this gladsome
    Christmas day!

  10. I didn’t hear or see anything during the Christmas worship service because our church doesn’t do one. Only if it falls on Sunday.

  11. The Christmas Eve service at my church certainly brought forth both the best and worst of my experiences in the Anglican church. The visual aesthetics, musical choice, and above all the liturgy and the sacraments all pointed directly to the the person and work of Jesus with a profound sense of both gravity and joy. The Bible was read with reverence, sin was confessed, forgiveness proclaimed, God was praised, and communion was shared. I love the steadfastness and focus that a strong tradition can bring.

    Unfortunately, on the night when our church swells with the nominal self-declared Christians and the spiritually curious there was no attempt made to speak to them or welcome them. All of our particular habits, routines, and language were taken for granted and those unfamiliar with it were often left to wonder what was going on. The sermon was dense with unexplained Christianese and quaint parables that spoke of some unspecified great gift at Christmas; but the Gospel was never even remotely articulated. It would be entirely reasonable if people walked out of that service either just plain confused as to what this Christmas and Christianity are all about, or thinking that this is all some vague feel-good religion of rituals and bedtime stories for the morally upright.

    I love my church and I’m greatly appreciative of our deep roots in the historical faith, but I’m convinced that if we don’t rouse from our complacency we will inevitably become more insular and wither away. Christmas Eve was very bittersweet in that regard.

  12. The best part of our Christmas Eve service, and the best part for me in any service, was the worship time of singing Christmas Carols. I stand next to my adult children singing all the musical parts to the carols. I just love that. It is so sweet to worship the Lord with my adult children. I also love hearing them quote the different Scripture readings by heart. It makes all those years of financial sacrifice for their Christian School tuition worth it.

    The worst part is our congregation has outgrown our space. The leadership is looking to buy a new space. It just gets sooo hot in there.

  13. This Christmas Eve, as we’ve done for about 8 years, our small church met in a shed on our farm. It’s a nice shed, probably much nicer than the one in which Mary gave birth, but it is a shed. About 70 people, many of whom were strangers, gathered around a manger to read both the prophecies related to Christ’s coming and the accounts of His birth. We sang traditional carols and hymns as a sheep bleated in the corner. Then we were challenged to look beyond the manger to the cross, because the Nativity is incomplete without the Resurrection.
    http://www.merchantcircle.com/blogs/Living.Hope.Bible.Church.920-467-2709

  14. My remembrance of this Christmas eve and Christmas day will be watching my godly 86 year old mother in law be admitted to the emergency room, admitted to the hospital and now being treated for a very serious heart issue along with numerous blood clots in her lungs, legs and arms. However this turns out for her, I will remember her as an example of what the incarnation is all about, how “union with Christ” is what our whole existence pivots on whether we are healthy or facing death. My mother in law is an example of the angel’s proclaimation. God does bring His peace upon those on whom His pleasure rests.

  15. We had our typical lessons and carols worship, though we pushed it up a half-hour given that we have so many kids in the congregation.

    Things I thought were uplifting:

    (A) Our choir director and I laid out the order of worship in a way that built into the exuberant joy of Christmas. We started with a sense of longing, and gradually the hymns got louder and more expressive as the readings progressed through the nativity story. It was cool.

    (B) Before I went through my Christmas meditation I thanked the congregation for all the gifts they give me in their willingness to grow in Christ (and for “getting” that the fact that I don’t take myself seriously is only because I take the call to make disciples very seriously).

    Things I thought could be better:

    (A) We need to pursue a more deliberate liturgy, but I have to be careful of the fact that to a portion of our congregation liturgy is actually “anti-worship.” These people are wrong, but it’s hard to convince people to let go of things they hold on to emotionally.

    (B) Please oh please oh please oh please can we celebrate Communion?

    That’s my Christmas eve. Thanks for reading.

  16. At my small Baptist church we had a singing of carols, reading of the Christmas story, a short message concluded with prayer for our community, nation and world. Enjoyed it very much.

    Randy

  17. The Guy from Knoxville says:

    December 26, 2008

    I don’t post much but I read alot however, this particular subject is always fun to read and very revealing many times.

    My special moment this Christmas was a suprise and unexpected – back on the 23rd I received a call from my pastor regarding the Christmas Eve service at church and he was wanting to know whether to email or leave a copy at the organ console and in the process mentioned that he was going to do the service in a Lessons and Carols format. You have to understand (Michael you’ll appreciate this) that I’m organist in a southern baptist church in the 3rd largest city in Tennessee and we have all the issues that Michael talks much about in this blog and to have a service as traditional as this was a very, very nice suprise. Additionally in this type of service the organ and organist get a good workout since I pretty much had the lead musically – it was great fun and great to have this in an SBC church. You also have to understand here that many SBC churches have pretty much trashed their music and worship heritage and it was so refreshing to play a service like this and the congregation did enjoy it much a sang very well too.

    That was one of my special moments during Christmas 2008 along with spending time with my wife as we drove up to Pigeon Forge,TN after the service on Christmas Eve to see the Winterfest lights only to get caught in a blinding wind-blown rain/T-Storm on the way back – great fun and a wonderful time. My best to all as we usher in 2009 in about a week.

    Happy Holidays!

  18. For the 24th time in a row, I fell asleep at Midnight Mass.

    The Priest read an entire children’s book to us, so apparently I didn’t miss much.

  19. I went to a nearby Lutheran church that I have never been to before. My wife and two children were with me.

    A few years ago I belonged to a church that considered Christmas “Babylonian.” In one meeting we were warned that even sending a Christmas card would be a hidden sin that undermined our following of the Lord. It was very hard for me to get this mentality out of my system.

    So on Christmas eve we went to the Lutheran service, and enjoyed the singing and reading. Our favorite part, especially for the kids, was holding lit candals and singing “Silent Night.” The message that night referred to the Charlie Brown Christmas Special, which I’ve always loved. That show of course includes Linus reading from the Gospel of Luke. The minister said that when Linus spoke these words, he no longer held his security blanket. On one hand I thought that was a bit silly, and yet it struck me in a deep way. To know and love Christ is to let go of whatever we hold onto for our false sense of security.

    I am unfortunately estranged from my father right now, so we did not go to my parents’ home for Christmas. I wrestled with this decision. But on Christmas day, we received an unexpected visit from a family that once belonged to our former church, and who left the church and rediscovered Christ. So while I could not be with my natural family, the Lord blessed us with a reminder that we have a spiritual family. We had warm and relaxed fellowship, outside of any religious system. And the kids played with their Christmas presents.

    The Lord is really wonderful.

  20. Our little group at Dayspring gathered to sing old style carols and hymns. It was OK to not have the drums etc. We were going to light candles, but we have all had a couple rough weeks. There was joy in seeing people who earlier this year were close to death in addiction look clean and healthy. Thank you Jesus! So we had a candle less candle light service. I always say if you have “had it” with ‘organized’ religion try us!
    We had a collection, very unusual for us, for the express purpose of helping a couple who are having a rough time. The couple has 3 kids, he proposed in church a couple of weeks ago, they want to do things right, but it isn’t easy. The church has committed to support.
    So we ate cookies had some fellowship, and some how I did not even get the blues or depression this year, even though my back is killing me. Merry Christmas!

  21. Our church opened the doors for a self-directed experience this year. No music performed or homily by the minister from up front. The overall mood was one of quietness and contemplation. There were five distinct encounters in separate areas of the Sanctuary (rows of chairs removed and areas reconfigured). One area focused on “slowing down/resting” and asked us to meditate on Psalm 46:10 and Matthew 11:28-30. Another space was designated for lighting a candle from the Advent wreath to represent your own journey with Christ…and then to light another candle for someone in your life to whom you want to be the light of Christ in the days ahead. Another area offered communion with seasonal imagery on screen and ambient music playing softly. A fourth space focused on “breathing” and directed our attention to God’s pneuma/spirit in us. My favorite space was built around the theme “Following the star” and gave us the opportunity to respond in writing by naming the things that hold us back from “leaving home” and going on the journey with Jesus.

    There were no time constraints—some were in the room for 10 minutes while others spent an hour in the encounter.

    All in all—it was exactly what my soul was thirsty for—and I hope we do it again next Christmas Eve.

  22. We had the traditional Vesperal Liturgy of St. Basil on Christmas Eve, late afternoon. We had the unexpected addition of two visiting chanters who volunteered to help our lone chanter. As a result, we had some wonderful three-part chanting going on. It really helped the congregation join in.

    On the funny side, I got just a little carried away with the incense. Hmm, would you believe our Parish Council president almost fainted and had to be led out to sit outside for a little bit while he regained his breath? Note to self: less incense in the future. I was teased about it afterwards.

  23. Fr. Ernesto, true story, speaking of too much incense. My first experience at an RC church was the Mass where my niece was baptized. There was a large censor full of incense burning with much smoke behind the priest, and it looked to my eyes that the man was on fire. I thought that large robes and the many candles were a dangerous combination. My firefighter training kicked in, and only my mind reading wife and her family prevented me from “stopping ,dropping, and rolling” the priest. I am sure this act of love would have been misinterpreted.

  24. For the last couple of years I’ve gone to midnight mass at All Saint’s Anglican Church in San Antonio. It’s probably my favorite worship service of the year. They usually have about an hour of choral music with many of the traditional Christmas hymns before the service proper.

    It’s very traditional and very moving. I like the way that when I’m driving home I can still smell the incense on my clothes and still taste the wine in my mouth.

    A few years back, I attended midnight mass with friends at Our Lady of Perpetual Help (or Hope… I forget) in Schertz, TX. The priest gave a wonderful sermon about remembering that Jesus isn’t only the all-powerful and ineffible God, but that he was also human, born like we are and experiencing what we do. About how Christmas was that reminder that we can go to Him ‘cuz He’s been there too.

  25. I went to a Latin Mass in Oakland on Christmas Eve. In addition to the ordinary chant, we went through the basic English Christmas carols. The priest gave a straightforward homily emphasizing the Incarnation and the need for us as Christians to embrace the incarnate Jesus every moment of every day.

  26. My elderly mother and I attended the Children’s Mass at St Edwards, an old church built by German Catholics. There’s something about seeing all the German craftsmanship and their labor of love at Christmas. Church was packed with hundreds of people. Three priests and three seminarians participated.

    While standing to hear the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke proclaimed, the children acted out the story. Father gathered the children up front for his homily, which was question and answer style with the children. Always good to see the next generation of the Church.

    Recalling Jesus healing ten lepers and only one returning to thank him (Luke 17:11-19). After church, we fell on our knees and thanked our Lord and Savior for giving us the grace that allowed us to attend and worship. Without that grace, we’d likely skip church and enjoy a secular holiday as many do.

    God bless… +Timothy

  27. We attended my parents’catholic church and were amazed at the wonderful preaching the congolese priest did. The gospel was presented through it and I tell you it was what my wife and I needed. We declined to attend our home church as we feared it would be a side show and not nearly as reflective and honoring as this Catholic service. Thank God for other traditions.

  28. We’re in Oregon and many of the roads are still dangerous to travel on at night due to ice. We ended up not going to church on Christmas Eve because of that reason, so we watched “Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe” instead. This movie is a great reminder to me of the reason why Jesus came to earth – as a sacrifice for our sins. I can’t seem to separate the birth with the death. They go together.

    On Christmas morning my husband read Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus. Every time I read it I am filled with awe and wonder. It often seems mysterious to me. I think I would have fit in the place of a shepherd.

    Our Christmas going-to-church plans were redirected because of weather. Our hearts, though, remain steadfast no matter how we decide to worship.

  29. I accompanied my parents to the church of my youth. It’s a hip SBC church (the sort that has an executive pastor and a simulcast service).

    The worship leader/band are phenomenal musicians, so that portion of the service was very enjoyable. One song I never heard before discussed Christ as king above all kings who became a humble servant and sacrifice for all, and I thought that was great.

    The rest of the service was more in the vein of cute or quaint, with a sort of Chicken Soup for the Soul kind of Christmas skit with a stable and live animals. There was a short message that invited people to know Jesus, and we sang “Silent Night” after a candle lighting to end the service.

    I hesitate to be critical because I’ve spent enough of my life pointing fingers and exhibiting extraordinary pride, but being someone who really loves the season of Advent and everything around it, I was disappointed. We heard plenty of “Jesus is the reason for the season,” but there was no discussion or meditation upon the Incarnation of the Son or anything like that. It just felt like we could have gotten the order of service from Hallmark.

  30. Hubby and I actually attended two services: a small country Methodist Church and later, midnight mass at the RC. The Methodist service was simple, but nicely done. No sermon per se, the pastor used a children’s book to tell the gospel story. We sang the usual carols and did a candle lighting.

    Now the RC service was quite different. The church is an old Gothic cathedral, built in the 1800’a, stunningly beautiful and festively decorated. The music and readings were appropriate and well done. The homily was meaningful and the gospel was heard. The priest paralleled the story of Narnia, how it was always winter but never Christmas. He likened it to the bleakness of Judea when Christ was born. He brought out that Aslan was “on the move” and liberated Narnia. He brought hope and was “born to die.” He pointed out the Aslan was a Christ-like figure for Christ did the same and has given us hope and liberated us from sin if we choose to be part of Christ’s “story.” It was a beautiful and meaningful service.

  31. We attended evening Children’s Mass where two of our children were singing. It was good to see the place packed out the door with everyone squeezed in tight like the old days.

    During the homily the priest invited the children to sit at his feet and discussed the incarnation by focusing on Charlie Brown’s Christmas, particularly Sally and her Christmas list of all things. He did an effective and unique take on this and tied it into the Incarnation. Some incense, some bells, and good singing with family and friends. Very joyous. My only complaint was that we had a lot of rain instead of snow…

  32. Midnight Mass at the Cathedral in Lexington. The preparation wore me out – I mean, getting into all my kids’ skulls that yes, we were going to Mass at midnight and that it was special and they needed to stop whining. I was not in the best place as we got there at around 11:40. They have a Carol singing deal that starts at 11:30, so we were late for that but early for Mass. And even with that, there was nearly no room at the Inn!

    Extra chairs were in the back and at the ends of each pew. We sat in those. Packed to the gills house. Everything was beatiful. Full choir. The Bishop, all 3 of our Priests, two Deacons and a full compliment of Altar servers. Incense was crankin’ – I love me some incense. Most of the responsive parts of the Mass were chanted, and the congregation chanted in return.

    The most beautiful part for me was the Gospel. It was read by one of the Deacons, who has a great voice. He sung (chanted) the whole Gospel story – amazing.

    And, I felt like a monk, kneeling on the floor instead of a kneeler. Who needs a stinkin’ kneeler!? ha!

    There was at least one apparently intoxicated dude there – funny. Last year we smelled the people behind us, who had obviously just been to a Christmas party of some sort with much drinking and merriment. Yeah, I know, how shameful, but you know, I’m thinking there were a good number of drunk and party people sittin’ around Jesus’ feet too back in the day.

  33. Mack Ramer says:

    Wanted so bad to go to midnight Tridentine High Mass at St. John Cantius, but just like last year, inclement weather + tiredness meant that I was denied. So instead, went to 7:30 AM mass at the church 5 minutes walk from my apt (where I should be going anyway). The priest had the flu and gave a rambling homily with some good points, but very hard to follow. He ended the mass by just wishing us a Mele Kalikimaka and then forgot to say “Go forth, the mass has ended”, instead turning to the choir master and asking, “What are we singing?” At least I got to sing Adeste Fideles in Latin 🙂

    Sam Urfer — have you ever met up with Arturo Vasquez at the Latin Mass in Oakland?

    Alan — back in May I had to kneel on the floor during the Latin Mass I was married in. Hard wood floor. My knees still hurt. 🙂

  34. We had 5 services: 2 for families with children, one with carols, Scripture, short readings about Mary, Joseph, etc., and candle lighting, one with choir, carols, message, Communion, and candle lighting, and the last with carols, choir, message, and candle lighting.

    I preached at the last two, taking off from the phrase in “Silent Night” “all is calm, all is bright,” noting that it wasn’t that way in the story from either Matthew or Luke, it isn’t that way now with war, a sour economy, illness, grief, etc., but Jesus has come as God in the flesh to bring us salvation, forgiveness, peace, transformation, and to gather us into community.

  35. imonkman,
    I now identify myself as postevangelical. I am not sure who coined the term, but I have learned the meaning of it at your feet. No midnight mass, no morning mass, just a quiet evening at home. We did not do much spiritual reflection I am sorry to say. Reading the comments here has made me more determined than ever to push through all the dead evangelicalism that weighs me down and find the best community of servants that are not bogged down with all that. Make sense? Maybe not, but it does to me.

  36. Mikw,

    Makes perfect sense to me. I am in agreement with you, though I’m going to stick with my current church, for the time being anyway, and try and serve and worship there.

  37. Mack-

    I know Arturo in meat space through mutual friends, and have for some time. Re-enacted the Reformation with him once over beer back when I was on the other side of the Tiber, good guy. This is the same parish that offers the Traditional Mass which he occasionally blogs about, but I go to the Latin NO, rather than the Tridentine, so I haven’t seen him at Mass per se, though I have run into him while leaving Mass.

  38. Since our church / denom doesn’t seem to have any tradition of Christmas eve services, the closest thing would be the previous Sunday. The evening service was all-musical, with about a dozen different people doing specials. Our contribution was a real treat for me: my entire family performed an instrumental medley. Our college junior played french horn and trumpet (she’s outstanding on both); senior HS daughter played trombone (also outstanding); my wife dusted off her clarinet and shocked us all; me on fretless bass. I give the details because we covered the map stylistically: “Good Christian Men Rejoice” in a celtic voice, “Away in a Manger” very emotively, and closing with a Dixieland version of “Go Tell It on the Mountain” that brought down the house. I’m not saying this to brag, but to relate what a blessing of God it is to be able to make music to glorify Him with my whole family contributing. Thank You, Lord.

    Christmas eve we have our usual traditions, which always includes us lighting all the candles, reading both of the gospel Christmas narratives (the kids do the reading), the singing of several carols, and a toast to the incarnation of our savior. I live for this moment every year.

    Oh, and my wife gave me an Ipod Nano 8 GB… :~)

  39. Christmas this year was a blur. I felt like we were running ourselves so ragged that I didn’t get to sit and really reflect on the season like I wanted to.

    However, the Christmas Eve service at the Methodist church we’ve been attending was very nice. I knew every song except the solo done by one of the ladies in the choir. A wonderfully expressive Gospel reading from Luke and reverent communion. I could go for even more tradition and ceremony such as at the Anglican church we’ve visited, and I would have liked going to midnight Mass at the local Catholic church for the experience, but overall it was the highlight of the season.

  40. I didn’t go anywhere for any christmas service. I haven’t been to church since I lost my job, again.

    This year I went through a second factory closing; the kind the politcians say is good for the country and the people can just retrain. I’m now working in a wire harnass plant with a terrible turnover rate and a generous $8/hr.

    I’m too broke to participate in church; they rightfully expect financial contributions.

    I worked Christmas Eve and the day after and because I’m probationary worker, there’ll be no pay for that day.

    I’ve taken,AGAIN, charity money from my elderly widowed mother.

    On my block two people died , so their families aren’t into much of any holiday mood.

    Tadition seems to be the guiding force of this season, whether shopping or attending services. Pretty surroundings and moods, though, can only go so far.

    Sorry it sounds like whining, but who feels like cheering when the home team losing the game. At least, the game isn’t over yet. Still, I don’t feel much like hearing how great heaven will be. I can’t declare this life meaningless.

  41. I still havent bothered to ask the media guru what happened, but while everyone was holding their candles and softly singing Silent Night on Christmas Eve, over the sound system suddenly a very loud recorded announcement came on that said, “CONGRATULATIONS, YOU HAVE BEEN CHOSEN TO RECEIVE A BRAND NEW NINTENDO WII!”

    Everybody cracked up laughing and it totally ruined the mood.

    But it was fun. We all survived the trama.

    dm

  42. Bry McClellan says:

    I have enjoyed each of these comments. My heart goes out to Bob Pinto and there is little that can be said to bring comfort in those situations. It in a reminder to me about how fragile life is and how quickly most of us could be in his place with the loss of a job or illness. There are no guarantees and I wonder how the prosperity gospel folks react to these situations. No doubt they would blame Bob for not having faith.
    I also am part of a tradition that has no tradition except not having a tradition. It seems to become more shallow as the years pass for me. I attend a small Episcopal church often and get much from it. The Christmas eve service was small but very traditional with great music from a visiting organist. We don’t have to worry about the media situation that Davidmc mentioned for there is not sound system and no projectors or computers. That removes most of what can go wrong in the service. I am quit familiar with the many things that go wrong in media for I use to operate the sound system in the church I am a member of. It was always embarrassing when things went wrong and then you had the added embarrassment of the pastor or music director trying to be funny by blaming it on the demons. I often wondered why they could not commend us for a thankless job at these times. The media people are taken for granted until something goes wrong. Anyway Christmas eve was wonderful at the Episcopal church and there was no service at my Baptist church that I love dearly. I just can’t understand why we baptist have to work so hard at being nontraditional and continually reinventing worship.

  43. My greatest experience during the season happened early Christmas Eve morning. I stepped onto the porch of very dilapidated frame home where a former student of mine lives with his parents and an older sister. The two siblings came with me to the car to help retrieve a large box of groceries, a fruit basket, a gift basket, along with some cash. When we got back to the porch they were sounding their very sincere ‘thank you so much.’ As always, I told them the gifts were not from me. They ‘are from your Heavenly Father. He loves and CARES for you so very much.’ I cupped my hands to the young sister’s face and said, “I am so sorry for all the troubles you see. Please know that the three beautiful children you brought forth and were taken from you…are blessing three households in ways only God knows. They are gifts from God and from you. Know that your sins are no greater than mine. Know that our Father’s love and mercy sustains us all.” I left knowing that the Father had touched His kindness to their hearts. I knew the ‘visit’ to their affliction had brought Christmas to them because they literally were visited by the Christ Child.

  44. For the third year in a row, our pastor began the Christmas Eve candlelight service by having the congregation sing “Jingle Bells” and “White Christmas.” This act is considered so sacrilegious by my wife that she hasn’t attended Christmas Eve service for the past two years. I don’t know whether he just enjoys those particular songs or wants to provide a decompression chamber from the world before continuing with a totally traditional, Christ-centered hour, but it does seem totally out of place. I accompanied on the piano a flutist who played “The First Noel” and “What Child Is This?” and “Go Tell It On the Mountain.” A man who teaches at a local Bible college read Luke 2. A trio sang. A young man played a jazz version of “We Three Kings Of Orient Are” on an electric guitar. Pastor spoke on “Fear Not” and also about darkness and light. We ended with everyone lighting candles and singing “Silent Night” (apparently a very common thing to do at Christmas Eve services in the United States of America).

    Several years ago the choir director and I and our wives attended midnight mass at the RC cathedral in Atlanta and heard beautiful choir music such as Bach’s “Sheep May Safely Graze” accompanied by organ and a small ensemble from the symphony. Very few in our church would have understood or approved of either the music or our attendance.

  45. BlaineFabin says:

    Went to 6:00 evening mass with childrens choir. Very crowded but nice. Bishop Lynch presided and it was nice to see his staff moving down the aisle. The gospel reading was interrupted at several places, where the choir would sing the corresponding carol, (angels we have heard on high, silent night, away in a manger etc.) and children dressed as Mary, Joseph, shepherds and angels took their place in a living nativity. Nice homily with the children invited to the front as the bishop told them a great story about the nativity, and traded shepherd staffs with “joseph”. All was very good.

    mike

  46. The past two Christmas Eve I have attended a midnight service of a very small “break away” Anglican fellowship. This year they moved it up to 10 and since I was not finished with family stuff then I went to the 11 service at the large stone Episcopal church downtown where I have snuck in a few Wednesdays to their Celtic Liturgy.

    To say it was moving and impressive would be an understatement. I’m pretty sure they have never had a small church rural baptist pastor have a running fit in their services, but I came close when the bells tolled, the organ crunk up, and the choir in white and red robes came marching in singing “Old Come all ye Faithful” accomponied by a large banner, the crucifer, a large golden bible held aloft, and a guy swinging incense. I’m not sure how much of that fits into the regulative principle 🙂 but it sure was impressive. And the service itself was nice. I like the order of it. The sermon was reflective. In fact if I could convince the episcopal church to reverse itself on about 500 years of teaching on infant baptism I’d probably convert next week. I find very little else there that I disagree with. Add to that the fact that everyone their was well dressed and smiling and it was a great night.

  47. I went to Tridentine Midnight Mass at St. Anne’s in San Diego, it was the first time my wife was going to see the Mass in Latin. She liked the Mass she told me though she was bothered by a couple of things:

    (1) There was this realy tall guy in front of her so she could not see what was going on at the altar most of the time.

    (2) She was not ready for the amount of kneeling and standing. I told her she did not have to kneel if she did not want to but she said she did not want to appear as if she did not belong there.

    Oh and she was the only one not wearing a Mantilla (head covering) she kind of noticed that as soon as we went in.

    It was great though, the music could have and should have been better.

  48. Karen in AZ says:

    We attend a small, “non-denominational” church. Historically, we haven’t had a lot of liturgy, yet the congregation where we attend currently has an Advent wreath. And we do have a Christmas Eve service which is very well attended.

    This year, we extended an invitation to a small Presbyterian congregation that wanted to have a service, but had no place to meet to join us in a combined service. (Our worship band led; their pastor spoke.) It’s a service with kids of all ages, full of worship and a focus on the coming of Christ.

    We conclude the service with communion (taken in families who come to the front, serve each other, take a candle and circle the sanctuary), candle lighting, and Silent Night.

    I don’t recall much of the message in particular (we were sitting in the back with our kids and granddaughters so it was a bit distracting), but the sense of community was strong.

    I didn’t make it last year since I was preparing to fly up to Oregon the next day (yes, Christmas) to spend my Dad’s last Christmas with the family up there. (He died 2 weeks later.) I missed it, so this year was bitter-sweet.

  49. Went to a children’s mid-afternoon Christmas Eve service where my 10 year old was a shepherd. Unfortunately it was not the best experience, music was slightly out of tune, the timing both frazzled and irritated me to have to be there so early. It was an Episcopal Eucharist with slightly sloppy liturgy since it was “only” the children’s pageant/service. The attention to detail, I presume, was saved for the later 10:00 p.m. liturgical extravaganza, the service I sorely wanted to be at. I can’t convince my family that our Christmas traditions involve two church services in one evening. Spent a good part of the service stage whispering to my teenager to “stop-texting-now-or-you’ll-never-have-a-cell-phone-again-so-help-me”.

    The last few days, I’ve soothed my battered soul by listening on the internet to Choral Evensong and Lessons and Carols on BBC Radio 4.

    I worry in 25 years I’ll be that brittle old lady sitting in the front pew, mad at the newfangled liturgy,
    irritated at singing the wrong version of “Away in the Manger” and fuming when the sopranos can’t hit the high notes during the descant for the third verse of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”.

    God have mercy on me, a sinner.

  50. I just posted a video of the now famous “Wii Incident” at our Christmas Eve church here:

    http://voyageministries.blogspot.com/2009/01/christmas-eve-at-newchurch.html

    dm