The Joy of Christmas Church

When I was a kid, Christmas church was always such a special time. Every year there was a huge live Christmas tree in the foyer with the big old-fashioned colored lightbulbs and tinsel hanging from every branch. It was beautiful. The Sunday before Christmas they passed out little boxes with hard candy I didn’t like, but I loved the chocolate candies with coconut cream on the inside.

I had the privilege of being employed at several churches over many years. Each celebrated Christmas and decorated in their traditional ways. Some were very beautiful, some were less so, but all were special in their own way.

I think I have always loved Christmas church more than any other time of year. I call it Christmas church because the whole atmosphere seems to change when anticipation of Christmas begins with the first Sunday of Advent. Now that I think about it, some churches didn’t really celebrate Advent at all. At least they didn’t call it Advent.

To me, there is something good and proper about lighting a candle for each Sunday in preparation for Christmas, with the themes of hope, peace, love, and joy. The white center candle represents Jesus the Savior.

Thirty years ago, I was the choir director and youth leader at a large church. The very high cathedral ceiling in the sanctuary was beautiful with huge beams. Stained-glass leaded windows each displayed a portion of the ministry of Jesus. The church had a pipe organ, filling the church with incredible music that lifted everyone, almost literally.

At Christmas time, the church celebrated what was called, “The Hanging of the Greens.” The event was new to me, but I quickly learned how special it was. The following Sunday, the entire sanctuary was alive with colorful decorations. Each of the giant beams was draped with a live fir garland that stretched from the floor to the peak and down to the floor on the other side. The beauty was indescribable.

The singing of Christmas hymns began with the first Sunday of Advent and continued throughout the season. The sound of the pipe organ playing with the congregation singing, “Hark! the herald angels sing, ‘Glory to the newborn King, peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled…'” was wonderful.

Thirty Christmases have come and gone. Our children are grown and baking cookies in preparation for Christmas with their own children. The Christmas church where I was employed is now the church where we attend. Just as it was so many years ago, the sanctuary is beautifully decorated. Four Advent candles glowed as the choir sang a lovely anthem.

I don’t know anything about handbells, except that I love to hear them. I don’t understand how the ringers keep the music straight and know when to ring. It seems wonder could quickly turn to disaster, but they always sound amazing.

The joy of Christmas church is everywhere Christmas is celebrated. In churches large and small, whether in great cathedrals, rented halls, or living rooms, the young and old look forward to Christmas Day, to celebrate the Savior’s birth with family and friends.

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