Well, this is it. The last day of work (for me) before Christmas.
My personal to do list is still kind of intense, but I don’t really care. At this point, all of the big stuff is done. Nobody cares if I wear wrinkly clothes over the weekend or if my house isn’t vacuumed before I leave. Presents have been mailed (even if they were mailed a few days late), my kitchen no longer looks like a roach’s idea of heaven, and things are all lined up for my dog to be fed and patted on the head while I’m out of town. He might even get walked.
Now I’m just excited about the rest of the week. Christmas Eve is probably my favorite day of the year. There’s so much cheer and anticipation. No matter what the next day holds for you, it’s the day when hope entered the world in the form of a person. It doesn’t get much better than that. I know that Easter is more significant for me from a spiritual perspective, but you can’t get to Easter without Christmas. I’ll leave my theological discussion at that for today.
So the Christmas Eve candlelight service. If Christmas Eve is my favorite day, and the Christmas Eve service happens on that day, it makes sense that it’s also my favorite. There are good college memories closely linked to Christmas and candlelight services, too. When I sang in the choir in college, we always prepared for one Christmas concert and one Christmas service called Vespers. The concert was all of the typical corny songs you would expect. It was fine.
The service was magical. I love singing. It makes me feel like I’m doing something that God specifically created me to do–something that’s a piece of the order and beauty and worship that I’m supposed to be a part of all the time.
Take that feeling and magnify it by at least ten, add candlelight, throw in some awesome free food afterwards, and that’s Vespers. The very best part of the already fantastic evening was the final song, Silent Night. The arrangement of the song wasn’t ridiculously challenging or fancy, it was just good. Simple and good.
The church was dark and old-looking, even if it wasn’t that old at all. It gave off a traditional vibe. The only real windows in the sanctuary opened onto a walled garden, and there were two main sections of pews in the space. When we walked in to sing Silent Night, everyone was quiet. We surrounded the sections, staying in the aisles instead of going to the choir loft at the front of the church. We were arranged so that all of the four vocal parts were evenly dispersed in the room, and we all looked in towards the congregation, not up at one central location (that central location being our director).
Where we were looking might not seem important, but we had to start singing in perfect unison. Doing that without being able to see a director and without any background cues is kind of tricky. When it works, which it always seemed to, it’s beautiful.
So there was one verse of solo, then a long pause. Then it was time for the altos. A few words later, other parts entered and the harmony built. Sometime in the middle of that, candlelight spread from one person to the next. By the time we got to the end of the song, I wanted to sing it a few more times right away. But that’s it. Just one time a year for a couple of years.
I don’t ever think, “Man, I wish I could just go back to college and live that life again.” I do wish I could sing in Vespers again though. Since I can’t do that, I enjoy the service wherever I am, and I get excited about Jesus’ birthday and remember what it’s like to be a part of something incredible.