Christmas is a big deal in the life of a church community. There’s children’s programs, “Hanging of the Greens” decorating parties, and caroling parties, all leading up to the final event, the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service. As a minister’s wife, let me fill you in on a little secret.
Pre-Christmas activities are exhausting. After the initial opening of presents and reading the biblical account on Christmas morning, our family often spent the rest of the day doing a bunch of nothing.
I got too smart too late. Since Christmas Eve services in the churches we’ve served often started at 5:30 p.m., I struggled with Christmas Eve dinner plans. Eating out sounded like a good option until we discovered restaurants closed early for the holidays. All restaurants except Chinese restaurants that is. Thus was born our family tradition of eating Chinese food after Christmas Eve Services.
We’d order our food and then read aloud the Christmas cards and open gifts church members had given us at the service. We felt the tension and fatigue of the past few weeks slip away as we indulged in a frequent case of the giggles over caricatures of the waiter and the more absurd fortune cookie messages. Having that relaxing time away from public activity helped us reconnect as family after a busy holiday season and have the emotional energy to treat the next day with the reverence and enthusiasm it deserved.
One year, the only other customers were an older couple from our church. By the next year, our family had become close friends with their daughter-in-law and her two daughters, so we invited them to join us after the candlelight service. That, too, became a cherished tradition, a time well spent with good friends who could become as silly as us. When we accepted the call to a new church 500 miles away, our two families kept up the tradition, sending each other photos on Facebook as we mutually enjoyed our dinners.
Christmas Eve. Candlelight service, reminders of precious people in our congregation, and good friends around a meal I didn’t have to prepare. It doesn’t get much better than that!
Karen Wingate writes novels and magazine articles, speaks at women’s events, and leads several bible studies both in her local church and online.
Check out her website ministry, Grace on Parade, at www.graceonparade.com.