“Christmas time is here. We'll be drawing near. Oh, that we could always see such spirit through the year”
- Vince Guaraldi
What a wonderful sentiment. I completely agree. I wish we could have the spirit of Christmas with us each and every day of the year. A spirit of love, hope, peace, and joy; a spirit of cooperation and understanding; a spirit of patience and helping. A spirit of not judging, but of opening ourselves to the experience of God’s presence within us and our world.
It’s amazing how the traditions of Christmas become so tied to our experience of it. What songs we listen to, whose house we visit, the decorations and foods. Even our worship experience on Christmas Eve becomes a sacred event. But why? What is it about the traditions of the service that are so important? In every congregation I have served there is always the tension of what song will conclude the service. One member even said, “It’s just not Christmas to me if …. Isn’t the last song.” Why is it that the last song sung at worship makes or breaks someone’s experience of the holiday?
Maybe understanding the reasoning behind why certain hymns or scriptures are chosen could help us break some of the tension around the sacredness of that final song. Much like a funeral, wedding or weekly worship, my understanding of the worship experience is one in which we move from ourselves toward God. On Sunday mornings I try to select hymns and liturgy that compliments the scripture lesson and the theme of the sermon to support the worship experience as a whole. For funerals I do my best to help those attending recognize and affirm their grief, but then begin to move from the grief of loss to the celebration of hope which is in the resurrection by using the liturgy for a memorial service and then ending with the Easter Liturgy and “Sing Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!.” The service becomes a journey in itself. For Christmas Eve, I seek to do the same.
My hope each year is to have an experience where we arrive recognizing the sacredness of the holiday and move into the joy of the gift given that night so long ago. This is done in many ways from the lighting, to the order of worship, to which hymns are sung at which time. The spirit of Christmas which is concentrated in this worship (our action toward God) is a gift (God’s action toward us) which can be carried with us when we leave the building throughout the year.
Christmas time is special because it reminds us of the gift God gave – the gift of Godself in human form in Jesus. It is a gift that isn’t just given once a year, but is offered to us each and every day. What would our year be like if we treated each and every day like it was Christmas?
In Christ’s service,