I have heard how much this town loves its Christmas Eve service, and I am glad because I love it, too. One person in town talks with glistening eyes about coming out of the late night service into the stillness of the Upper Village with a gentle snow falling and feeling a peace like no other time or place.
I’m still working on the falling snow, but we are bringing back a late service this year–10:30 PM as well as 5:30 PM. The earlier service has a choir and many more children and adults in the pews, the later service will be quieter and more intimate, but the structure and elements of the two are almost identical.
These services are as close as we can get to pure beauty and pure joy–the children, the candlelight, the familiar carols and the gorgeous choral and instrumental music, and the words, too, although they need some explaining.
The United Church of Strafford was one of the first in the Upper Valley to adopt a standard of inclusive-language. It is a mostly female-led congregation that aspires to be a force working for peace, justice and the care of the earth.
And yet on Christmas Eve you will hear the Shakespeare-era King James Version of the Bible and the pre-inclusive language versions of the traditional hymns.
You can blame me for this. I use them partly because of their beauty, but more because the music of those words can work an emotional magic for people who attended Christmas Eve services when they were young. If you are missing your parents or grandparents or the world of your childhood, hearing the same diction and cadence can bring back a comforting echo, a sense of being present there again, as nothing else can.
The services are not solely traditional lessons and carols. We have an informal time with the children at the start of the service and a brief candle-lit story and solo that come just before we all light our candles and sing Silent Night. We hope for laughter as well as wonder.
All are welcome: all neighbors and guests; all races and religions; all gender identities and sexual orientations; all ages and walks of life. We hope you will feel how blessed we are by one another’s presence and by the opportunity to bring our diversity together in one loving community.
Pastor Tom Kinder