Most of you will remember that Christmas fell on a Sunday last year...as it seems to do every seven (or so) years. What a bother! Church on Christmas! Such was the general sentiment of many churches/church-goers. Some even canceled their Sunday services. (see post "Home for Easter")
Josh and I decided that we were going to embrace the Christmas Sunday worship. After-all, generations have been attending church on Christmas. Only recently has the church abandoned that tradition for the more modern ones that fill our houses. To our joy, we found that we truly loved being at church on Christmas morning.
Well, Christmas was back to its usual weekday landing. However, we found that many churches still embrace the tradition of meeting together to celebrate His birth. We were glad. Our yellow-book church search took us to St. Anne's Orthodox church which is just down the road from Josh's parent's home. And this is what we experienced; this was our Christmas Morning:
The boys awoke to find baby Jesus lying in the manger (after the long journey of Mary and Joseph). Jesus was here: The light of the world! They each opened a small gift: Jakey received a globe and Max got a flashlight: The light has come into the world!
Preparations were made to dress, gather our things and eat a light breakfast before we left the house.
We arrived at St. Anne's and entered the building
Up the stairs
through the doors leading to the sanctuary; pause
We see pictures on the walls of the saints
no chairs...just rugs and benches around the outer walls
A couple standing on the Persian rugs...praying
Tables with pictures of the nativity
In the corner, a choir is practicing: children, women, men
A man dressed in an ornate robe introduces himself and explains a little about the service. He is a "reader"
Bells ring and the service begins. We stand, holding the boys, as the service progresses.
A priest comes swinging incense
the choir sings in a chant-like style
the Priest prays for our country, the church, enemies of the faith,
the readers loudly chant portions of Scripture and the choir answers;
And so the service progressed for an hour and a half. It reaches its climax with communion. The little children go forward first. The older children assist the little ones as they stand on their tip-toes to reach the icons. They are lifted up and kiss the pictures before going forward...So sweet.
We were advised before hand that communion is only for their church, but we were encouraged to receive a blessing. We go forward, Max and I first, and then Josh and Jake. The Priest touches Max's head and blesses him...than I; shortly after this, the service is ended. It was beautiful.
After this we got into our car and drove the half-mile to Josh's parent's home to continue our Christmas Morning traditions.
I do not feel that our Christmas morning was ruined; I feel it was enriched. I held the service in my mind all day long, remembering the Lord who's birth we celebrate. I can't say that is always the case as the traditions of gifts and food overwhelm my senses. This day, I kept returning to the service: remembering the story that was read; hearing the sounds of the choir; and feeling the reverence with which they worshiped.
Our theology is not the same; neither is our style of worship. We do not accept many of their traditions or claims; nor would they accept ours. But we were welcomed in by them to join in the celebration of our Lord's birth: a tradition that I pray will continue in our family.