Jill Jarrell Newsome
All of my life I have spent Christmas eve at church. While I go anticipating seeing people I do not get to see often and seeing the church lit up for Christmas I think I anticipate singing "Silent Night" the most! That was my father and grandmother's favorite Christmas song. They would start out singing and then be quiet. The first Christmas eve service without my grandmother I was not able to sing out loud. I sang in my heart. After Dad died, it was all I could do to not lose it. When the lights are dimmed and we start singing "Silent Night" it still makes me cry. I understood their tears. They were overcome with the gift we have been given.
At the end of our service, the congregation stands and sings, “Silent Night” while holding unlit candles. As we sang, ushers light the candles on the aisle from one large candle. Then, one by one, we passed the flame down the rows by lighting our neighbors’ candles, until the sanctuary is lit with the glow of hundreds of flickering lights. It is just a sacred time.
In many churches across the world tonight, lights are dimmed and candles are glowing. Voices fill sanctuaries with a carol welcoming the birth of Jesus Christ. Anxieties will melt away as worshipers sing "Silent night, Holy night, All is calm, All is bright." The significance of having a single lit candle representing Christ, the Light of the world, being shared, one by one, and lighting individual candles is powerful. It is a visible sign of the truth that the Spirit of Christ is shared and does light up the world!
Tonight we remember a dark winter night when a new star was in the sky. It was so radiant that it lit up the gray hills and made it look light as day. The shepherds were frightened when they saw it but an angel came to them and said: "Do not be afraid; the star has come to bring you good, tidings of great joy, and to show you the place where a little babe is born,--a little babe whose name is Jesus, and who will give peace and joy to the whole world." The shepherds said, "Let us go and see this child." So they left their flocks sleeping on the hillsides, and followed the star. It led them to the little stable in Bethlehem, when the Baby Jesus was cradled in a manger. Then the star moved on to a country far away, where some wise men lived. They saw the bright light, and noticed the star moving on and on, as if it were showing them the way to go. So they, too, followed the star till it rested above the birthplace of Jesus.
Many around us are in darkness, looking for a way out. Jesus is the Light of the world and He is still shining today. May we shine brightly and bring the light of Jesus to those in darkness. If we each share whatever light we possess, it will lead us back to Christ. John 8: 12, "When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'”
May God help us share this story with our friends, our loved ones, co-workers and to the whole world spreading the light of God throughout the world! "Oh Holy night the stars are brightly shining, it is the night of our dear Savior's birth!"