A Celebration of Christ’s Birth

Freeimages.com/gc85

A hushed anticipation of Christ’s birth settled over the sanctuary as we entered.  The stained glass windows appeared muted without the day’s sunlight to shine through them.  The lanterns hanging from the rafters cast a diffused glow over the assemblage, not quite illuminating the entire room.  The majesty of the moment held me in transfixed anticipation.

Soon, the chords of the first Christmas hymn rang forth
(select each song to share in this experience):

O come, o come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel...

Midst the reading of the story of Christ’s birth, we sang the songs related to each part of His coming:

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.  (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:1-7

Away in a Manger,
no crib for a bed…

O Little Town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Luke 2:8-14

The first noel, the angels did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields way they lay…
(Be sure to click play with this link)

Hark the herald, angels sing
Glory to the newborn king…

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

Matthew 2:1-12

Joy to the world, the Lord has come,
Let earth receive her king!

And finally, as the joy and reverence and awe crescendoed in the night, ushers turned down the sanctuary lights, leaving the minister at the front of the church holding one lit candle representing Christ who came to be the Light of the world.  Two ushers came forth and each drew light from the one, and row by row, Christ’s light passed from person to person.  From candle to candle.

The beauty of the candlelight drew us deeper in the reverence and awe of the birth of  Christ.  We sang:

Silent night, Holy night,
All is calm, all is bright
Round you virgin, mother and child
Holy infant, so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace.

We sang all of the verses, the glow of the candle flames dancing in the breath of our hymn.

At the end, the minister told us to:  “Go in peace and spread the great tidings that Jesus Christ was born.”

We exited, a profound hush settled over us.

This is how I spent my Christmas Eve’s as a child.  The candlelight service at my church grounded me in the truth of the season.  For a time, I forgot Santa Claus and the gifts under the tree.  The holiness of this service held me in its splendor well into the evening.

 

As you go into the night, remember:

Peace on earth and great joy to men!

Christ is born!

Note:  I Do NOT own the copyrights to any of these songs.
Thank you to all who have posted links to these beloved hymns.
Please support their work.

If you only watch one clip, watch the one for The First Noel.

Apologies for any ads that appear in the video links.
I tried to use links without them.

Advertisements

Keep Your Eyes On the Groom

Courtesy of pixabay.com

 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:

“Hallelujah!
    For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
 Let us rejoice and be glad
    and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
    and his bride has made herself ready.
 Fine linen, bright and clean,
    was given her to wear.”  Revelations 19:6-8

I’ve never seen a bride who wasn’t radiant. Dress her in the raiments of her wedding, and she glows with a joy we all want to capture.

This past weekend, our youngest son married his bride. As I’ve done for years, instead of looking first at the bride, I watched the groom, our son, as she first appeared at the end of the aisle. If you’ve never done that, then try it next time. The bride will remain radiant, don’t worry, you won’t miss a thing. But the groom only catches his first glimpse once. Make sure you see it.

We’ve had three of our children marry, so far. With each one, I watched the groom first.

Our son Chris had a nervous smile on his face that turned to consternation as his bride took longer than expected to step out of the limo that delivered her to their garden wedding. The moment she alighted, his face transformed with relief, joy, and happiness. I’ve never seen his smile as big as I did that day.

When our daughter Terri approached her husband-to-be, I watched tears cloud his eyes. He couldn’t take his eyes off of her. When she came close enough, he couldn’t help himself. “Wow,” he whispered as he drank in the sight of her.

This past weekend Nathan stood stiffly at the front of the church, waiting. When they opened the doors to reveal his bride, he grinned, his gaze focused solely on her. I waited. This son is more reserved than the others and I sensed him holding back. Then I saw it, a great big gulp, his Adam’s apple wobbling with the emotion he couldn’t contain.

Each of these lovely daughters of mine caught a glimpse of what awaits us on the day when Christ receives his bride, the church. A wedding is the perfect time to get a hint of the joy we’ll experience on that day, when we are presented in fine linen, bright and clean. I can’t begin to imagine our joy. But I believe the joy on Christ’s face will outshine our joy like the sun blocks out the stars.

Come To Serve, Not Be Served

© Barbara V. Evers, All rights reserved.

This week I flew to Orlando. No, I didn’t go in search of the fun most people think of when they think of Orlando, Florida: no Disney World, no Universal Studios.

Instead, I went to serve.

One of the truths of serving others is we gain more than if we’d gone in search of being served.

My class was fantastic. They were fun. They listened, engaged with me, and embraced the training I provided.

I haven’t had much opportunity to travel in the past two years. Being the guardian of two young children tends to rein in the ability to leave town for several days week after week.

My grandchildren’s counselor got excited when I told her I had been away for three days. “Did you read? Did you relax? Did you get some peace and quiet?”

Nope. I got less sleep than I would at home. I worked right up until bedtime preparing for the next day. I spent as much time as I could with the other trainers when I wasn’t in the classroom.

But I found joy in this.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:5-11

Jesus found times of peace and solitude, but he came to serve, not to be served. And in so doing, I believe he found joy. If he’d grumped around tired and worn out, no one would have followed him. Just a few verses later, Paul alludes to this:

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. Philippians 2:14-16

So serving is where it’s at.  I served and through that service I received:

  • Time with old friends
  • A new friend whom I hope will become a great friend
  • Conversations with people about what matters to them and seeing their eyes light up
  • Laughter, lots of it
  • Heartfelt thanks for helping people do their jobs well
  • The camaraderie of 45 trainees I will probably never see again, but who touched my life in a very positive way
  • A change of pace for a few days
  • Service from those hired to make sure I had everything I needed to do my job well, including:
    • Waiters who brought me non-dairy milk
    • Food servers who replenished the buffet just as I reached the empty dishes
    • Meeting event people who made sure I had everything I needed and did so without complaint
    • Trainers who jumped in with tips and tricks
    • Several assistant “trainers” who made sure my classroom kept moving forward
    • Managers (internal and external) who checked with me on time and needs
  • Safe trips there and back
  • A husband who stepped up to care for the grandchildren by himself while I was gone (I know how hard this is)

Where do you serve?