24. Christmas Eve

Today is ALMOST the big day. But it could be argued that today is just as big, couldn’t it?

I mean, how many of us celebrate on this day as well? Some years, this is the day my family gets together at my grandma’s house and exchanges gifts with her. Some have their big meal today and open presents tonight. Or at least one. I have a friend who gets to open one gift Christmas Eve and it’s always pajamas for Christmas Day.

Tonight, for me, is church and one of my favorite Christmas traditions. You see, several years ago – I really don’t know when it started – those of us at church that had gone through youth group together and come back for the holidays gathered together before the final service of the night to eat snacks and catch up. Originially, my family and I had to be there for all three services Christmas Eve, someone was either playing an instrument, singing or reading at the first two (or in my case, working in the nursery) and then we attended the latest one.

Well, most of my friends from the youth group had the same thing going on. My family and I don’t do a big meal Christmas Eve and for a while it consisted of picking up some snacks from the gas station right by church on our way back from my grandma’s. Well, when the other church kids and I – we all still keep in touch and hang out when we can – realized we’d all be there all night and weren’t gonna get real food, decided to make it a potluck of stuff and eat together between the second and third services.

Sara – who lives in Montana now but always comes back for Christmas – always makes taco dip, someone always brings a dessert, and we raid the church kitchen for silverware, plates and cups. Three pastors have come down to snack with us at some point or another, even if just stopping by to get a bite of taco dip. Last year, our interim pastor even mentioned the little tradition during the service.

It’s a great time for us to catch up and spend time together and it’s a tradition I look forward to every year. Last year, one in our group showed up to the makeshift dinner to tell us she’d gotten engaged that day.

The church service is my other favorite part about today. In my church, we have a candlelight service. At the end of the service, we all get candles and pass the flame like we do the offering plate until everyone’s candles are lit. Then the lights are dimmed/turned off and we sing Silent Night together. It’s beautiful. Last year, our interim pastor changed it up a bit and had everyone make a circle around the entire sanctuary so we could all see each other as we sang.

At the end, we all sat there for a second, just taking in our surroundings and what we felt that night. It was so amazing I teared up a little. Maybe I cried, I dunno. Deal with it. Then he went into the middle, raised his candle and said “Merry Christmas” and blew it out. It really was a beautiful end to a beautiful service.

Tonight, we’ll get together around 8:30 and eat taco dip and other snacks while we are there between services. And at the last service, we’ll hold our candles and sing Silent Night together and think about what this holiday is really about.

Whatever your traditions, whatever you do today, or tomorrow, I hope you and your families have the merriest of Christmases.

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