Before the madness which Christmas morning always brings, there, in contrast is a serenity that my family always enjoyed. Christmas Eve late service of Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church. The service seemed like an ancient rite that never changed. The same hymns that my mom sang with the choir, the same ushers who carefully passed the plate, and the same advent wreath that we had lit for years. It seemed that these rituals would last in perpetuity, and you could always come home and find them. If you were lacking in Christmas spirit, just show up and get a healthy dose of joy. Years pass, and you celebrate in different ways, but come 11:30 PM on Christmas Eve where ever you are, you think for a second, wouldn't it be nice to go to church. Wouldn't it be nice to solemnly sing Silent Night with your family by candle light, and wouldn't it be nice to celebrate the coming year as Joy to the World filled every corner of the sanctuary.
Over time you hear that the church folks are getting older, and the new generation has no interest. Christmas Eve service still happens, a shadow of what is was, the pews are empty, but the memory of the good old times, makes these new times good enough. You can still get your Christmas fix. More time passes, and much of the choir sings from heaven now, and the ushers are hunched and broken, the advent wreath begins to show it's age. Just a little more time and you hear that the congregation has been dissolved, and our building has been put up for sale.
These things happen.
But as you walk away from what you know, and toward things you don't, you bring the memories. You realize that though the physical is no longer accessible, the spiritual always will be. As I sit here typing, I'm feeling "Christmas-y," just from remembering. The sadness of what is lost doesn't diminish the joy of what you keep. Merry Christmas.
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