Traditions are very important to our family and especially at this time of year. As long as I can remember, Robby and I have taken our children to our church's annual Christmas Eve Service. This is such a wonderful way for us to reflect upon the real reason for Christmas and a tradition that we all thoroughly enjoy and expect to participate in each year.
I suppose one of the most difficult parts of being a parent, is when your own children grow up and begin having families of their own. Oh, actually having families of their own isn't a "bad" thing; don't get me wrong. It's just that things become "different". This year, we will get to enjoy Parker Ann at her first Christmas Eve Service. Right now, I'm not sure if David and Codi will be able to make it to the service because they will be spending some time with her family. And I DO understand that...and that is why we have decided to attend the later service this year. They will do their best to make it there.
I'm not sure why it took us Protestants so long to catch on to what our Catholic friends have been doing for many years. When I was growing up, we did not have Christmas Eve services...and I never understood this. Because, after all, isn't the birth of Jesus the reason we, as Christians, celebrate this holiday? Well, whenever Robby and I began having children, we found this wonderful church to begin attending. And we were happy to discover that they did offer a Christmas Eve Candlelight Service...2 on the same evening, actually. We quickly added this to our annual Christmas traditions. When the children were younger, we used to attend the earlier one, so we could head out to one of the grandparents houses (we alternated yearly) directly afterwards. Now that our children are all grown, Christmas Eve is more of a relaxed day. The presents are all generally bought and wrapped by then, I'm usually watching the 24 hours of "A Christmas Story" and there may be some sort of family game playing going on somewhere in the house. If we're REALLY lucky, the weather is cold and we have a fire blazing and hot chocolate on the stove. Christmas Eve is just a very nice, low-key sort of day.
So, this evening we will head to church, where upon entering, the organ will be swelling with strains of Christmas carols and the entire sanctuary and foyer will be decked out in traditional red and green; garland, bows and a towering tree. As everyone scrambles to find a seat, laughter and conversation fills the room as old acquaintances are renewed and old and young alike await the annual service that pays homage to a Baby...a King. We join in song together, participate in the reading of the Christmas story and then the lighting of the tree begins. There are 2 wooden structures in the shape of trees that hold hundreds of candles on them. As the music continues to play, families file out to light a candle together on one of the trees. Our tradition is to allow a different person each year to light the candle for our family. I will admit that this made me a little nervous when the boys were little...you know, handing them fire and all. I could always envision the headlines in the local newspaper..."Local Family Burns Down Area Church While Lighting Candle in Christmas Eve Service"...I'm sure that it made the ministers a bit nervous too; knowing some of the previous antics of my mischievous little boys! Thankfully, that never happened. And this has become a tradition that has become a very important part of our Christmas.
So, as Christmas Eve service comes and goes again this year, we will reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. The birth of a baby...the most precious gift of all time...given to us from God. I hope that all of you have a very Merry and Blessed Christmas.