Daily Archives: December 23, 2013

traditions: candlelight services

christmas-candle-for-alexis-blog-12212010When I was a child, the small-town church my family attended didn’t have a Christmas Eve service. Everything was held on Christmas Day, making it one of the busiest days of the year. The morning would start with chores (just as every other morning did…cows don’t take a day off, you know) which would promptly be followed by a flurry of getting ready and loading up the car – imagine one bathroom to six people, three of them girls. We’d drive off to church, attend the service, visit with a few people and then pack up and head off to Grandpa and Grandma’s for dinner and presents before we returned home to open ours.

I don’t miss that….the busyness.

When I was fifteen, that church finally made the switch to a candlelight service on Christmas Eve. It gave us an additional four hours of free time on Christmas Day No more rushing from one place to the next, being too exhausted to even enjoy the time we spend with our immediate family.

I also discovered that I felt more at home in the presence of God at those candlelight services. The darkening of the room with only the candles to light the pages with Christmas carols to be sung aided in my imagining what the heavens must have looked like the night Jesus was born. So many stars, possibly including that bright one that led the wise men to his presence.

I’d also like to think that one day, when we join him in heaven, there will be an instant replay for everything that has ever happened in our history. I would love to watch that scene unfold.

It’s been thirteen years since my first candlelight service and I find that this is one tradition I look forward to most –  an evening where it’s just Jesus and me, no matter who I’m sharing the service with. I ponder the news of his birth and the implications his sacrifice has had on my life and I thank him for all that he’s done and continues to do.

What about you? What do you enjoy most about the Christmas season? Choose to allow God to use those traditions to remind you of what he did for you and where you’ve come from.

Carol Favorites: the christmas truce

For unto us a child is born…and his name shall be called…Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9.6

Silent night! Holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin, mother and child
Holy Infant, so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

“The romantic version of the “Silent Night” story has an Austrian priest at his wits’ end when th church organ breaks down on Christmas Eve. With the prospect of a silent night ahead, heand the organist come up with a new hymn that can be sung without accompaniment. The result, “Silent Night,” goes on to become one of the most popular Christmas carols of all time.

The real story (according to Silent Night Museum in Salzburn, Austria) is grittier but possibly more inspirational.

Joseph Mohr was born illegitimately in a time when illegitimacy halted any possibility of social progress. Fortunately, his singing voice caught the ear of the cathedral choirmaster, and he was encouraged into the priesthood.

Working as an assistance priest, he helped translate hymns from Latin to German, to the delight of parishioners and the furty of the chruch establishment. Mohr’s liberal priest was replaced by a hard-liner.

Resenting Morh’s popularity, the new priest attempted to blacken his reputation by bringing up his illegitimate beginnings. The battle of wills culminated on Christmas Eve 1818 when the church organ mysteriously died. Mice were blamed, but another likely suspect was Mohr’s friend, organist Franz Gruber. He put music to lyrics Mohr had written two years before, and “Silent Night” had its first public performance. It wa sung in German with a guitar accompaniment, something that normally never would have been allowed.

The carol’s popularity in both German and English made it the one song both armies could sing in unison from their trenches during the Christmas truce of 1914.

Joseph Mohr died in 1863. he left this world as poor as he came into it, having given everything he had for hte sake of the poor. Not only did the life of this relatively unknown priest benefit his parishioners, but it glorified his Lord and gave the whole world a beautiful reminder of the night the world fell silent lest it wake a newborn baby.”

December 23: an indescribable gift

If while we were enemies we were reconciles to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciles, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in god through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliations. Romans 5.10-11

How do we practically receive reconciliations and exult in God? One answer is: do it through Jesus Christ. Which means, at least in part, make the portrait of Jesus portrayed in the New Testament – the essential content of your exultation over God. Exultation without the content of Christ does not honor Christ.

In 2 Corinthians 4.4-6, Paul describes conversion two ways. In verse 4, he says it is seeing the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. And in verse 6, he says it is seeing the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. In either case you see the point. We have Christ, the image of God, an we have God in the face of Christ.

Practically, to exult to God, you exult in what you see and know of God in the portrait of Jesus Christ. And this comes to its fullest experience when the love of God is poured out in our heart by the Holy Spirit, as Romans 5.5 says.

So here’s the Christmas point. Not only did God purchase our reconciliation through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ (verse 10), and not only did God enable us to receive the reconciliation through the Lord Jesus Christ (verse 11), but even now, verse 11 says, we exult in God himself through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus purchased our reconciliation. Jesus enabled us to receive the reconciliation and open the gift. And Jesus himself shines forth from the wrapping – the indescribable gift – as God in the flesh, and stirs up all our exultation in God.

Look to Jesus this Christmas. Receive the reconciliation that he bought. Don’t put it on the shelf unopened. And don’t open it and then make it a means to all your other pleasures.

Open it and enjoy the gift. Exult in him. Make him your pleasure. Make him your treasure.

© Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org