Saturday, October 6, 2007

Christmas by Candlelight

It’s the first week of October and already I’m thinking about Christmas -- partly because of the gray, foggy mornings we’ve woken up to this week and partly because if I plan this far ahead I have a better chance of being relaxed during December itself. (Last year I started on our Christmas cards in September! It sounds ridiculous, I know, but hey -- they were ready by November, in time for my mom to carry them back to the States for mailing, and the only thing more ridiculous than starting on Christmas cards in September is paying UK overseas postage rates.)

But also, I’m really excited because this year Sophie can start understanding about Baby Jesus. Last year she was just a baby herself. Now she’s old enough to play with the nativity set made of felt, a lovely gift from friends in Kazakhstan, and she can point out the different characters in her storybook pictures of the first Christmas. It has been incredible to watch Jack soak up the Christmas story these past few years, and now Sophie can join in the wonderment, too!

In many ways, I enjoy the anticipation of Christmas even more than the Day itself. I love the cozy atmosphere here at home -- Christmas music playing, sweet treats baking, tree lights twinkling -- and I love having an entire month to ponder the miracle that is Christmas.

Ever since I can remember, Christmas Eve has been our big celebration of Jesus’ birth. In my experience Christmas Day tends to be a time for family, presents and food -- but Christmas Eve has always been synonymous with reverence and candlelight. I really love a good Christmas Eve candlelight service, don’t you? I think the very best one I’ve ever attended was at the All Saints’ Cathedral in Nairobi, but really, it’s hard to go wrong with reading Scripture, singing carols and lighting candles!

In the last few years we’ve inaugurated a family tradition of doing something similar at home, too. We were inspired by a Christmas Eve at Brett and Tina’s when we all lived in Cyprus. After a lovely meal together, guests took turns reading verses and lighting candles to represent the various witnesses to the birth of Jesus.

This year, in addition to our family time on Christmas Eve, I’m also inviting some of my Christian mum friends for a quiet evening of reading and lighting candles in remembrance of the Christmas story at the beginning of December. It’s hard for mothers of young ones to find Alone Time, ever, let alone Time Alone to prepare their hearts for Christmas. I’m hoping that a cup of tea with festive goodies in a roomful of other mums and a time of quiet meditation and reflection will give them a chance to do just that. And I’m hoping that, with full hearts and peaceful spirits, they’ll head into the rest of the month better able to nurture their families’ preparation for Christmas, too.

In case you’d like to adopt something similar, either with your own family/friends or by hosting a group of young mothers in your home, the verses our family reads are listed at the end of this post. The concept is adaptable, but here’s what has been meaningful for us: On a low table, arrange 12 unlit candles/tea lights around or among the figures of a nativity set. Ask someone to read the first set of verses. (I’ve included my preferred versions of Scripture for each of the witnesses, but you can use whatever translation communicates most clearly to your group.) The reader then lights one of the candles. Another person reads the next set of verses and then lights another candle, and so on. When all the candles are lit, we usually end by playing a song like Welcome to Our World by Chris Rice or Here With Us by Joy Williams. And we close by praising God for the wonderful gift of Jesus.

For this year's early-December gathering, I’d really like to burn a CD of some of my favorite worshipful Christmas songs for each mum to take home as well. You know, the more I think about it, the more excited I become about intentionally reaching out this holiday season, about helping these women focus on Jesus. Because God's comfort and joy is meant to be shared. And because it’s never too early to start thinking about Christmas.

* * * * * *
The Prophets -- Isaiah 7:14, 9:2, 6-7 (NIV); Micah 5:2, 4-5a (NIV)
Mary -- Luke 1:26-38 (NLT)
Elizabeth -- Luke 1:39-45 (NLT)
Joseph -- Matthew 1:18-24 (NLT)
Zechariah -- Luke 1:68-79 (NLT)
The birth of Jesus -- Luke 2:1-7 (NLT)
Angels -- Luke 2:8-14 (The Message)
Shepherds -- Luke 2:15-20 (The Message)
Wise Men -- Matthew 2:1-12 (NLT)
Simeon -- Luke 2:21-32 (NLT)
Anna -- Luke 2:36-40 (NLT)
John -- John 1:1-14 (NLT)

1 comment:

Char said...

Hello Laura! It's been a while since I've written, but I have been praying for you. I just wanted to say Thx for sharing your CHristmas celebration idea. I love it and am anxious to arrange something similar with some of my Christian mom friends!
We are fine here. Tonite is the last class of my final masters course. Not easy with a toddler but by the grace of God I finished! What's next? We're praying. The Lord is really impressing missions on both of our hearts. I'm thrilled, even with no idea of what, where, when...
Blessings to you and your family!