Happy Little Christmas Eve. (The day before Christmas Eve. A Little Eve.)
Today and tomorrow are my favorite days of the year. Especially Christmas Eve. We gather together to worship with Communion and then we light candles in a darkened sanctuary. As we fill the space with light we also fill it with song, singing Silent Night, written especially for this special night. And the whole world takes a deep breath and pauses in waiting and expectation for what is to come next. My favorite part is the expectation. I could do without the presents or the hullabaloo or the movies or the Christmas specials as long as I have that time of worship the night before Christmas, where we gather in silence and hope.
It is one of my favorite times of the year.
One year, I had a slightly different experience of worship than normal.
I was visiting my sister, who was teaching in France at the time. We went to Paris for Christmas. Cold, yes, but beautiful. For Christmas Eve, we went to a ballet at the national opera house, and then we went to go to midnight Mass for Christmas Eve. We were in Paris. Where better to go than the Notre Dame Cathedral. We had to stand in line outside for a long while in the cold, and once we got in, there weren’t really seats available, so we stood for most of the service. But this service. Yes, most of the service was in French, and I don’t know much French, though my sister is fluent. But then they began to sing.
Il Est Né, Le Divin Enfant, one of my favorite French carols, filled the cathedral. Heavenly voices floated around us and drove deep into our souls. Other hymns were sung. Scriptures were read. And then they sang Silent Night.
We didn’t have candles in our hands. We were not going to be taking Communion that night at the Catholic church. My feet were aching and cold.
But none of that mattered. We were worshipping with over a thousand other people, singing or humming along with a carol that has travelled the world. We were singing in expectation and hope. We were ready to welcome the Christ Child once again.