Our Christmas Eve service is over. It is perhaps my favorite special service of the year. People bring their families and their friends. They smile a lot. They sing out the carols that they love. And their faces are beautiful illuminated by the candlelight. We close the service with Silent Night, passing the flame from candle to candle. By the time the light has spread and we begin the last verse, everyone is singing quietly, reverently. As I stand at the front and look out on their faces, I remember where we’ve been through the year. There in the back was a soldier home from Iraq. Just last year I stood over the communion table with his wife and two children and prayed for his safe return. A few have new family members seated with them, one of the year’s greatest blessings. A few have weathered some really tough storms. And a few faces were noticeably missing. I’ve buried some precious individuals in my eight years here. I find myself looking for them in the candlelight, somehow expecting to see them seated in the same pews they occupied in life. Wanda. Joy. Lib. The Colonel. There are a number of others as well. I choose to believe that they were with us tonight in spirit.
The kids and I delivered gifts to friends tonight. Then they got to open two gifts each when we returned home. Christmas lights, a beautiful tree, carols on the stereo, a fire in the fireplace, three beautiful kids – what more could I possibly want on Christmas Eve? I am blessed. It is good to be reminded of that.
I pray for the blessing of Christmas for all of you. In spite of the weather, the traffic, dysfunctional families, grief over loss, work stress, strained relationships – whatever may darken your Christmas celebration – I hope the light of Christ will shine through.