It happens to us every year as we approach the eve of December 25th. A certain Christmas euphoria overtakes the family, and we simply cannot resist gorging ourselves on the rich liturgical offerings of so many Protestant and Roman Catholic Churches. Since we celebrate Orthodox Nativity on the Old Calendar (January 7), this affords us the opportunity to visit other churches on one of the holiest Christian holidays of the year. And I cannot think of a single holiday on the Western liturgical cycle in which services are offered throughout the entire evening, even as late as 10:00pm!
We began our liturgical pilgrimage at 4:00pm at my parent’s Lutheran Church in Bedford for their family-friendly Nativity celebration. Complete with little bells to ring during carols and small red hearts to lay at the manger of the baby Jesus, this quaint little service was perfect for the younger members of the family who have a difficulty with the late evening. We were warmly received with Christmas joy and got a chance to sing many of our favorite carols. But best of all, we were done in time to get home for dinner and prepare for the next service.
The family tradition has always been to celebrate Christmas Eve at the place of my employment. Since beginning the new tradition this year of celebrating with my parents, I did not think the children were up for attending both services in one night. But just one mention of Christmas Eve at Trinity, and the pilgrims were overeager to make new friends, but keep the old. While the parish children have outgrown the cute trappings of a traditional pageant, the four part Christmas carols and lavish processions were as always incomparable. Here is just a sampling of the sites from our evening as Christmas Service groupies. Perhaps as the children grow older, we will add a 10:00pm candlelight service into the mix. Merry Christmas and Joyous celebration of our Lord’s coming in the flesh!