On Christmas Eve, many churches hold candlelight services to help people claim the promise of the Christ child amid the busy holiday rush. At a service last year, I walked down the steps with my family into the sanctuary. Lit candles filled the front of the church and decorated the base of each stained-glass window. The soft scent of pine needles from the Christmas tree wafted around us as we took our seats in a pew. Adorned with handmade Chrismon ornaments that told the Christmas story, the tree glowed with warm white lights. At the front of the church, red poinsettias lined the dais.
Organ music welcomed us, blasting from the enormous pipes behind the choir. A current of excitement and anticipation ran through the crowd. We spent the next hour hearing readings from Scripture, both the Old and New Testaments, and singing favorite Christmas carols—“Joy to the World,” “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” and “Away in a Manger.” Harmonies echoed as we lifted our voices in joy.
The minister offered a short message of hope, peace, and love, reminding us of the Holy Family’s journey to Bethlehem, where baby Jesus was born among stable animals and laid in a feeding trough. We gave thanks in prayer for this baby, who would grow to be our Savior.
The service concluded with our passing of the light of Christ, using each other’s candle flames to light the flames of more and more people until everyone held a lit candle. We stood in a large circle and held our flames high as we sang “Silent Night.” The minister blessed us to go out into the world and carry the light of Christ in our hearts to share with others.
Our lesson texts contain the songs of the psalmist and of Mary—connecting each other in hope through the centuries between the longing for a Messiah and the coming of Christ. Words from these songs echo down to our own hymns and carols, reminding us of our connection to the people who first sang them. Like them, let us sing of God’s steadfast love and rejoice in God our Savior!
• What is your favorite Christmas Eve tradition? How does it draw you closer to loved ones and to Jesus?
• How has the psalmist’s hope been fulfilled in Jesus?
• Why do you think Mary put her feelings into song?
• What Christmas hymns are most meaningful to you, and how do you feel when you sing them?
• How can pausing to reflect on Christmas Eve make Christmas Day more joyful?
Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theater productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she writes middle grade and young adult fiction for the pure joy of it.
For further resources, subscribe to the Connections Teaching Guide and Commentary. Additionally, the Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary series is a scholarly but accessible means for enhancing your study of each lesson.