The Most Wonderful Worship Service of the Year (2018)

By Randy Brandt, Pastor (2018)

Brrrr! Both October and November seemed to me like they were darker and colder this year. Now I’m wondering, will December be even more frigid and dark? Probably so – especially on days when I mistakenly set our new thermostat to “Air-Conditioning” instead of “Heat” and I come home to what feels like a “whole-house refrigerator” (yes, it did happen!).

The older I get, the more I appreciate being able to escape Minnesota’s cold season for even a little while so I can get to part of the country with more sunlight and temps above freezing. A short visit to Arizona not only feels good on my skin, but does something to my attitude. To put it simply: soaking up sunshine in the middle of winter makes me feel healthier in body and spirit!

I wonder if it is this need for warmth and light these early days of winter that draws thousands of people to worship at SOTV’s Christmas Eve candlelight worship services on December 24. In our Christmas Eve worship, there is a tangible sense for many that the cold darkness is literally pushed back when the nativity story is again retold, when lit candles are held, and carols joyfully sung.

The combination of special music, the sacred reading of scripture, and then reflecting on the ancient story of Christ’s birth, combined with the reverent lighting of candles, has the ability to heighten the assurance of God’s loving presence, of hope, and the goodness of this life. To put it simply: Christmas Eve worship on a cold winter’s night makes me feel better in body and spirit.

Yet, at the same time, I know there are people who will be tentative to worship this Christmas. Holidays can magnify the grief of loss, and the absence of loved ones can be powerful in the worship setting. There will also be visitors at SOTV who don’t know our traditions, and on Christmas Eve they will just be trying to not feel like strangers. But, don’t we all need to know we are not alone, that this place can feel to us like home, and that God’s embrace in the midst of the cold darkness can bring light to our lives?

I sincerely invite us to prepare for Christ’s birth these coming weeks. Use an Advent devotional, worship each week, or join the Sunday 5:00 pm family Advent dinner & worship. Be sensitive to both neighbors and strangers who need exactly what you and I need: love, hope, peace, and a warm light in the cold darkness.

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