Reflections: Christmas Eve at night church

churchI’m not a church goer, but last night I went to an 11:00 p.m. church service. It’s strange being at church at night with people in jeans and sneakers while taking communion. This new informality at church is still disconcerting for me who grew up with the rules of “wearing your Sunday best” to church. It’s such a sharp contrast to the things I like about the Methodist Church. I love the formal architecture—the Corinthian columns and the perfectly balanced symmetry of the layout. These things are peaceful, calming to me. It’s a place that is decorative, but uncluttered.

While I find it hard to pay attention to the speakers, I find my minstry in music. In everyday life in general, music of all kinds speaks to me. At church whether it’s classical hymnals or gospel, I feel closest to the purpose of church when I hear words and music combined. It was a pleasant surprise to hear my high school classmate, who has become quite a sought after soprano, sing O Holy Night at this Christmas Eve service at a church neither of us attends. O Holy Night is my favorite traditional Christmas song. And I can be very critical about how it’s sung. She was flawless. And I was touched.

For communion, instead of all drinking from the same cup as I’ve had to at Episcopal and Catholic churches, we dipped our bread in the chalice of wine (grape juice). I was given a huge chunk and went to dip it. I looked in the cup and there was a floater—a tiny, stray piece of bread. The fella holding the cup was still standing before me. I guess I hadn’t soaked my body of Christ in the blood enough. But could I double dip? I hurriedly put the whole mostly dry bread in my mouth feeling a bit awkward. That homebaked bread was tastier than those wafers we got when I was a kid.

At the end, each person in attendance lit their candles from a single flame started by the head minister. We sang two carols and held our lights high toward heaven. It was a small moment, nothing spectacular, but it was beautiful.

Merry Christmas!

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