“Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask thee to stay close by me forever, and love me I pray.
Bless all the dear children in thy tender care, and fit us for heaven to live with thee there.”
Away in a Manger
In my experience, there is nothing like Christmas Eve worship. The candles and Christmas lights, the greenery and poinsettias, the music and pageantry, all create a warm container for the Holy. While the world outside is cold, dark and frightful, inside our sacred spaces are, yes, quite delightful.
I love standing in the back of the church as people arrive amidst the singing of Christmas carols. Many I recognize, some because I see them regularly, others as they are regulars for this Holy night. Regardless of how often they are in this sacred space, it is always clear: they, like me, have come to the manger to experience all that baby Jesus brings to this holy night.
For me at this service, there is always a palpable feeling of being surrounded by a wonderful warm embrace that brings a deep sense of being loved and cared for. We all need that. Maybe now more than ever. Because it not only gives us a soulful experience of joy, but also a glimmer of hope, “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
As the service draws to an end and I am once again at the back of the candlelit church, the words, “Silent night, Holy night! All is calm, all is bright,” swaddle God’s people, assuring them once again, “Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask thee to stay close by me forever, and love me I pray. Bless all the dear children in thy tender care, and fit us for heaven to live with thee there.”