Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas by Candlelight. And My Pagan Baptist Husband. / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
(Great job, KevinOQ. What a terrific photo!)

Last night was the Lessons and Carols service at our church, and I must confess, I didn't really feel like going. No, I hadn't turned into Mrs. Grinch, with termites in my smile and garlic in my soul. It had been a busy weekend, we'd already been to Sunday school and church that morning, and I just wanted to slouch around the house and finish the crossword and try not to think about how many calories I'd ingested in all those Christmas cookies I saved from Tanner. Plus, I occasionally like to pretend I'm a hermit. The service attracts huge crowds of people I've never even seen before, and lots of folks get there an hour early just to secure a pew up front.
Ugh, crowds.
Also, there's the candle thing. It's probably because of the years I spent teaching chemistry, but the thought of hundreds of candles held by preschoolers and old people with shaky hands and women with so much made me nervous. Or maybe it was an excuse.
I just didn't feel like fooling with the whole thing.

"But it's the candlelight service," Sarah said. "You don't really want to miss that."
I sort of did, to tell the truth. But we went anyway.

It was exquisite.
The children reading the scripture, the big extended families taking up entire pews, the little ones bouncing off the walls, the glow of the candlelight on faces of people I've loved since my college student was a pink newborn.

I love how the sanctuary gets darker and darker as the lessons and carols advance, until virtually the only light is the one flickering from the advent wreath. Then, as we take the light from the Christ candle and share it with each other, the room brightens again. What a lovely symbol!

That reminds me. The winter solstice is today. Did you know?
I'm so glad that early Christians chose to put Christmas right around the time of the pagan celebration of the winter solstice, the return of light after the longest night of the year. In fact my wonderfully geeky husband is so delighted with the timing that a few years ago he started an annual bonfire celebration in our backyard. It's a chance to trade the Christmas cookies for marshmallow roasting for a night, and to celebrate the transition of darkness into light.
We may be the only Baptists on the block adding a little solstice to our Christmas cheer, but it seems to me like a perfect fit.

In case you're not planning to fire up your own yule log, I brought you one. Enjoy the light!
Love, Becky


Marilyn said...

At this time of year you take whatever light you can get and enjoy it, whether a candle light service or a bonfire. This Quaker lady celebrated Soulstice on Saturday evening with a group of ladies and the candle light service is coming on Christmas eve. Merry Christmas!

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

happy solstice to you, too! I can well imagine those fears going into the candlelight service. Our church doesn't do them and oh how I miss everything about them. Thanks for letting me share in yours.

R and L said...

Thanks for the reminder of the Solstice - it's my parents 55th Anniversary, and I would have forgotten had I not read your blog today - I must call them.

I think it's the "hunter and gatherer" and pagan(?) in hubby that causes him instinctively to express the importance of the solstice, by celebrating with a bon fire - nice pic, too - warms me up just looking at it!
That candlelight service reminds me of when I used to go to the Episcopal church with my parents. That, plus singing all the familiar Christmas songs.

I like ChOfChr, except that they treat Christmas Day as any other day, I never have understood that.


Susie said...

What a beautiful description of the service. You are such a poet! Susie

Angela K. Nickerson said...

We belatedly celebrated Santa Lucia day last night at church in a service of light and dark. It, too, was lovely! Merry Christmas! :)

Debbie Egizio said...

Sounds like a beautiful service with all of the candle light. Hope you have a very Merry Christmas.

Thanks for the yule log it warmed my heart!

judy in ky said...

I love the idea of lighting up the dark winter nights.

May @ Anne and May said...

There's almost nothing I love better than a good bonfire.

And somehow I have never attended a church with a candlelight service. HOW? How I ask you? I would love that!

LW said...

I hope you had a wonderful bonfire…
I really like this idea for winter solstice but I think with
all of the ice and snow here I will stick with stew and warm bread by
my good old woodstove….

Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas…



Natalie said...

Lovely. Isn't grand when something we are reluctant about turns out to be very nice? Just last night I decided to get pagan next year and have a bonfire. My son likes to remind me that the Latin origins of pagan mean *from the country, a country dweller... * I can live with that.

Okay. I am also all atwitter because you are a big "weiner"... No, I am not being rude. Can you think which pagan calls winners "weiners?" Congratulations.

JennyMac said...

Really great description!

Jenny said...

You won something from THe Pioneer Woman! Awesome Christmas treat! Mais non.

Susan said...

My parents always went to the midnight candlelight service, but we never got to go because we were kids. I think I went once after I was grown. I can so relate to the reasons to not go. Glad you enjoyed it. Take care and have a Merry Christmas. Susan

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Y'all are so awesome. I hope you have the best Christmas ever.

And to Natalie and Jenny, I KNOW! Isn't that so cool?! I'm thrilled. I'd forgotten I even entered until I read Natalie's cryptic comment and figured it out! Yey!

Puna said...

I found you through the Pioneer woman site (congratulations by the way.) I just wanted to say that this post has had me thinking all day long. About Chritmas and the winter solstice. All this discussion about Christmas during this time of year actually is an opportunity isn't it? Thanks for the thougth provoking post!

Kelly H-Y said...

LOVE your bonfire tradition! Great post! Our church has switched to the battery-operated candles for the little ones, and real candles for adults! :-)