Christmas Eve

It seems as if merchants begin to put up Christmas decorations and put out toys right after the Fourth of July, but we are finally about to arrive at the day we celebrate our Lord’s arrival. Christmas Day will soon be here. It’s just one of those flukes of the calendar, that Christmas Eve this year will come on Sunday. Oh, what a great Sunday it can be. I would encourage you to be a part of a Christmas Eve service somewhere in your area and maybe at your own church.

One of the well-known facts about the song, Silent Night, is that it was actually first done by a congregation on Christmas Eve. The story goes that the organ was broken in this little village church in Austria. The year was 1818, and what had been planned as an observance of the birth of Jesus wasn’t going to be able to be accomplished. The best laid plans of men or others may not work out on Christmas Eve, so what were they going to do?

An assistant to the pastor, Joseph Mohr, was going to be there. Instead of scrapping everything, he suggested that a poem he had written be put to music and maybe utilize a guitar player — in this case, Franz Gruber – who would be able to play and the congregation would be able to pick up the tune and the words and sing, “Silent night, holy night…” And so it was. They were privileged to be involved in the first performance of the song that may be the best-known Christmas carol of all.

For me, Silent Night has become even more special than just the act of singing it at Christmas. The song surrounds my thinking about a Christmas Eve service thirty years ago. What has now become a tradition in the church where I worship began as we were standing and singing Silent Night accompanied by all the Christmas beauty and highlighted with candlelight that made it even more special.

I was sitting on the front row of the church. I looked across the congregation and as I did, I noticed a neighbor of ours who was standing right behind me with her small, few-weeks-old baby in her arms. It just struck me to ask her if I could borrow her baby for a few minutes. As we finished Silent Night and everyone was seated, I took that precious baby in my arms and walked up onto the platform and began to quote the ever-beautiful story of Christmas as recorded by Luke in chapter 2 of his Bible book: “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus…”

Holding the baby in clear view for everyone to adore and enjoy, I quoted most of the chapter which recounted what the shepherds were told and their decision to go see the child from heaven. Jesus was born. I’ll never forget as I was quoting the Scripture and holding the baby, people in the audience responded softly and gently with “ooos” and “ahhs” while seeing the baby and thinking about “Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright…”

From that time until today — over thirty years — I have been in services just about like that and had the privilege of holding the precious “Jesus babies,” as I refer to them, and quoting Luke, chapter 2.  Usually these Christmas Eve services involve soft candlelight, simple decorations, meaningful singing, and a reminder of why Jesus came here by observing the Lord’s Supper.

He came here to die for our sins so we could be forgiven, and so the burden of guilt upon us and the barrier that stood between us and God would be removed. Silent night. The greatest news that would ever come to mankind was showered down on some shepherds who went to see a mom and dad who had had their firstborn child, and it was Jesus.

I do want to encourage you to be in church on this Sunday, Dec. 24, if at all possible and maybe Sunday night for a beautiful vespers service where they may even sing, “Silent night, holy night…” The reason I want to encourage you to be there and enjoy it is because, as with that very first Christmas Eve and then the Christmas Eve many years later when Joseph Mohr set his poem to music and on the Christmas Eves when a baby was held and Scripture was quoted, here is the fact that you need to remember. You never know what God may do, especially at a Christmas Eve service.

Make plans to go. Make plans to present yourself to the Lord, fully open before Him to let Him do what He wants in your heart, life, relationships, and future. When you leave the service(s), you can go away knowing you have had a new encounter with God that will last not for days, but in many ways will be a turning point in life that changes all eternity for you because Jesus has come. May God richly bless you this Christmas season. I’d love to hear from you if you have a wonderful encounter with Jesus on Christmas Eve this year. My e-mail address is below.

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Jim Futral

Executive Director-Treasurer