One of my fondest childhood memories is the Christmas Candlelight services at the Methodist Church in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. A large part of it is my inner pyromaniac that enjoys playing with flames of just about any sort, and getting permission to do it in church just makes it that much cooler. The big challenge of the time was keeping the candle lit all the way home in order to light a candle on the mantel.
When discussing the Christmas visit my Mom had asked me if we would be able to attend a church service on Christmas Eve this year, and since we’d been doing the Cub Scout thing at a local Methodist church the dots connected in my brain between these old memories. Technology being what it is these days I looked up the web-site of the church while she was still on the phone and found out they were, indeed, doing candlelight services that night and I was quite happy to agree to attend.
It wasn’t what I remembered. The ushers stood at the end of the rows and lit their candles with Bics before moving up the aisles, light the candles on the ends. They had ‘extinguish candles’ as a line item in the itinerary of the service. They gathered the candles at the end of the service. The toilet-paper roll tube I had snuck in my pocket on the way out the door in order to protect the flame from the wind on the way home went un-used. Parts that were exactly how I remembered were the singing of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!”, and the bitter cold and dark ride home, even though we went to the 5:30 service. I would have sworn we went to midnight services when I was a kid, but my Dad said nope, it was the evening service.
It was too short of a ride and too many streetlights along the way for my kids to watch for Rudolph’s nose, as I remember doing driving through dark Ohio roads on the way back to my grandmother’s. My kids just waited until they got home and checked Norad, anyway. Or maybe Tyler borrowed Teresa’s iPhone to do it on the way home.
The service also included communion, passing out the grape juice and bits of bread up and down the aisle. It was the first communion that my boys have probably been to (or at least the first one they can remember), and it was a novel experience. Tyler commented after that if you held the juice in your mouth and then ate the bread it tasted like a jelly sandwich.
In other news… has anyone ever asked you your favorite Christmas song? I heard the question several times over the holidays, usually being asked of children. This is a much more difficult question than one would think. My first reaction is to say Drummer Boy (particularly the version sung by Bing Crosby and David Bowie), and Good King Wenceslas, although I’ve never heard the latter performed. Early in my musical career I could play that tune on the organ, and I really liked the lyrics.
As I listened to Christmas radio I kept adding to my list. About the only one I didn’t care for was ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ by Bruce Springsteen (Teresa disagrees with me on this one). Every time I heard a song I was tempted to add it to the favorite list! One I didn’t hear that would be on the list is Mele Kalikimaka by Bing Crosby. I’d also add just about every Christmas song I heard by Amy Grant. Picking a favorite Christmas song is like picking a favorite cookie. You can pick out one or two by memory, but when you have a smorgasboard of cookies in front of you the temptation is to pick them all (except the ones with nuts).