DECEMBER 4, 2020
There are few things in this world that I love more than Christmas lights. There is just something magical about them. Colored lights, white lights, small bulbs, large bulbs, indoor on a tree, outdoor on a front porch, I adore them all. My love of Christmas lights stretches back as far as I can remember. I have very distinct memories of sitting in my father’s lap as a young girl, mesmerized by the family Christmas tree. I would sit with him and watch the lights blink in their unique pattern, and it quickly became a game for me. Which strand will blink next? Will this strand ever blink? I could spend my entire evening staring at the tree. Even now, many of my December evenings are spent riding around different neighborhoods in the area to look at the lights. I love to see the trees through people’s windows and the decorations in their yards. It brings me such JOY.
While the commercial lights of the Christmas season bring out the little kid in me each year, they are not my favorite set of December lights. It is the sanctuary filled with candlelight that stops me in my tracks. Each member of the church holding a candle, singing “Silent Night.” It is the most beautiful part of my Christmas every single year. It is my most favorite tradition. It always has been.
Growing up in Greensboro, my family attended a small church. At our Christmas Eve service, we would exit the pews and form a large circle around the edge of the sanctuary to light our candles and sing. When my family moved to Augusta, we attended a much larger church where forming a circle within the sanctuary was impossible. We remained in our pews for the passing of light. While this was a change from the tradition I was used to, it was no less beautiful. In fact, the thousands of candles in that large sanctuary took my breath away. This was it for me: the standard of what a Christmas Eve should be. How could there be anything more beautiful than this view? Five or six years later, I joined the church orchestra. The orchestra played at the Christmas Eve service, which brought another change to my favorite tradition. I would no longer be shoulder to shoulder with my family, surrounded by my favorite lights of Christmas. Instead, I would be on stage looking out over the sea of lights. As I watched the light being passed from one candle to the next across the dark sanctuary, I welcomed the change of tradition. I was grateful for the new and unique view of this familiar service.
The next change in my beloved tradition came when I spent my first Christmas at Memorial. I asked Justin what to expect from the services throughout the Advent Season. I was eagerly awaiting his description of the Christmas Eve service, but I was disappointed. Christmas Eve was supposed to be a large production: nearly a hundred people in the choir loft singing “Joy to the World” and “O Come, All Ye Faithful” with an orchestra of strings and horns accompanying the mighty chorus. Justin did his best to assure me that I would love the Love Feast service for those very reasons. I had never heard of a Love Feast service, but he promised there would be beautiful music and my beloved candlelight. I was skeptical, but not let down. In fact, Memorial has set the new standard for me. You all added to my favorite tradition in the most special way. I had never been to a service where the light was carried out into the world. My favorite light in the entire world had always been contained to the sanctuary. It was always cherished and admired by the church and then extinguished within the church walls. Walking my candle out to the front lawn became the new standard of Christmas for me. Is there anything more important than sharing the light with others?
A change in tradition is tough. For many, it is heartbreaking. However, with each change to my favorite Christmas tradition, I found more beauty. I found God in each change. This 2020 Christmas may bring change to many traditions. Look for the beauty. When you find it, share it with the world.