Bellevue Baptist Church in Nashville celebrated Christmas Eve with a Candlelight Service. The sign on the church marquee read “Candlelight Service Christmas Eve,” and that drew me, because who doesn’t like to celebrate Christmas Eve with candles and carols?
The sanctuary was decorated with simple wreaths and banners reading Peace, Hope, Love, Joy. The advent candles were lit by the pastor’s family, and after a non-seasonal hymn, the songleader led the congregation in a relatively new Christmas song which has made it into the hymnal, “Mary, Did You Know?” While I like this song and enjoyed singing it, it was obvious most of the congregation was not as familiar with the song.
A Southern gospel quartet got up next and sang a twangy tune about Mary being “the first to carry the gospel.” Although it was a cute pun, and I saw quite a few nodding their heads or tapping their feet in time to the music, the song didn’t resonate with me on several levels.
The majority of the service was devoted to communion — a lengthy communion service that was moving, and which pastor Mike Shelton tied into the baby/young child being sent ahead to prepare the way and sacrifice himself for us. Christmasy it wasn’t. At the end of the service, the lights were dimmed and pastor lit the deacons’ candles. They, in turn, lit the first candle on each row until the entire congregation held candles. The congregation was led in the singing of “Silent Night” and the service was over.
It was a moving communion service, and singing the 2 Christmas songs was meaningful and seasonal, but I was left thinking that most of us automatically associate singing multiple Christmas carols when we see “Candlelight Service Christmas Eve” posted on a church marquee — not just 2. If you’re going to have a candlelight communion service, call it a candlight communion service!
I’ll close with what I posted to Facebook when I got home:
Note to churches: When I go to a “Candlelight Service” on Christmas Eve, I am thinking CHRISTMAS CAROLS should go with those candles!
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