When talking to people, it is not uncommon to find that many…in fact, probably most…have annual Christmas traditions. It may involve opening one gift on Christmas Eve and saving the rest for the next morning, large family get togethers, or even going to an assisted living home to sing Christmas carols to the residents.
I was thinking about this the other day and it occurred to me that perhaps my single longest running Christmas tradition is attending a Christmas Eve service. In fact, during a conversation with someone the other day, I suddenly realized that the earliest memory I have of the Church has to do with Christmas Eve. I can remember almost as if it were yesterday my mother taking me to the small church where we belonged, and then lighting a Christmas candle. To this day, I still remember the wonder and joy I felt being in that place.
Later, when I was a teenager, we attended a church that took Christmas Eve very seriously. The church itself was adorned with almost 1,000 candles. Candles covered the chancel area, and there was a small candelabra at the end of each pew that they had somehow built into the pews themselves. Looking back on it, it was a terrible fire hazard, but when we all stood and lit our candles as well, it was an amazing sight.
By the time Carol and I married, I had been in the ministry for a whole two weeks. The church to which I was appointed did not have Christmas Eve services, but it had been such a part of my life, we told the congregation we would be there on Christmas Eve if anyone wanted to come. It was a small church but that Christmas Eve we had a sizable crowd. Carol and I have spent Christmas Eve in church ever since.
We attended our first Christmas Eve service here at Dunwoody the year before I became your pastor. I was serving as the District Superintendent of our district and we had heard so much about the services here, we couldn’t wait to attend. We attended the 7:00 p.m. service. I still remember hearing the beautiful anthem by the Youth Choir and the celebration of the sacrament.
The following year, after I was appointed to DUMC, I had the privilege of enjoying the five traditional services we have each year, as well as a new contemporary service that we started that year on Christmas Eve Eve. I will never forget how surprised we were that year when 780 people showed up for A Night of Christmas Worship.
This year, since Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday, we plan to have eight services over the weekend. We will have two contemporary style services on December 23 (5:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.), a combined Traditional Service on Christmas Eve morning (10:00 a.m.), and our five annual traditional Christmas Eve services that evening (4:00 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 7:00 p.m., 9:00 p.m., & 11:00 p.m.).
If you have been before I hope you will keep the tradition going. If you have never been, I hope you will plan to join us. In fact, better yet, I hope all of you will bring a friend. I have found it is one Christmas tradition that is worth keeping.
Rev. Dan Brown