I went to a candlelight service at my church this evening. So much that I liked about it.
1. It was on Christmas Eve. There have been times when we've had a candlelight service for the evening service of the Fourth Sunday of Advent, but that's just not as satisfying. You should light the Christ candle on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
2. We sang all traditional Christmas hymns: Joy to the World, What Child Is This, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Away in a Manger, Good Christian Men Rejoice, and so on. My only caveat in this department is that we sang in a register that was a little high for me. We had two song leaders, a man and a woman. The woman, I know, is an alto, but perhaps the man is a tenor. Anyway, they launched into the songs high enough that I couldn't get the high notes. To be fair, I'm out of practice, plus singing throughout the service--the service consisted only of songs and Scripture readings--started to wear on my throat. I would have liked to have a good cough session to clear the pipes, but that would have been too gross to do in the sanctuary.
3. The symbolism of light spreading through the church, starting from the Christ candle, and going person-to-person, is simple and beautiful. One has to stop thinking symbolically at the end of the service, when everyone blows out their candles and throws them in a box on their way out the door.
4. I saw some dear people: (A) The couple who are the "shepherds" of my "household of faith"--which is a grouping of people assigned to a particular elder, deacon, and shepherd(s). This couple are my dad's age, but very fit and spry. The man is an old friend of my dad's from their youth. They are always friendly and caring. (B) The couple who lead my small group. They are both so good and kind. The woman is someone whose kind, friendly spirit I've admired for years. A couple years ago, when I was thinking I needed some partnership in my prayer efforts, she called me out of the blue to invite me to join their small group. She said that the group had been thinking about how to expand, and my name came to her when she was awake in the middle of the night. I believe that that was the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and I'm thankful she was responsive. Both of these couples spoke to me warmly and wished me a merry Christmas. (C) I saw other members of my small group around the sanctuary, and chatted with another on our way to our cars. (D) An elder, whose good opinion I respect, smiled happily at the sight of me and greeted me gladly. (E) A woman who has always been kind and friendly to me smiled and me, and I gave a little wave back. There were other glances and smiles exchanged. They all helped me feel a sense of belonging.
I've been struggling with church attendance this year, but I thought I should at least meet the lowest level of commitment and come for Christmas. When I was girl, and my father was an Air Force chaplain, we always had a Christmas Eve candlelight service at the chapel, and it was always packed with people who normally didn't come. My dad said these were the "C & E" church members--they came to church only at Christmas and Easter. I think for Roman Catholics that seriously is the basement level of commitment.
I still am a member of my church in my heart and mind, but I am not doing my part towards corporate worship. Fodder for a New Year's resolution. Or (what the heck) even repentance.
Now that I've waited until late in the evening, it's time to start my marathon of gift wrapping for the celebration tomorrow with my family.