Tuesday, 05 March 2024

Christmas Eve Reflections in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

This year on December 24th, Christmas Eve, a beautiful and typical Christmas Candlelight Service will be held at the Edmonton Moravian Church.

This service brings together our congregants, their relatives and neighbors, as well as visitors from the neighborhood, who have seen the announcement on the church sign. Since we share our church with a Korean Baptist congregation, they have been invited to join us for this event.

The Candlelight Christmas Eve Service is the best attended service of the whole year. No matter what the weather we can count on good attendance in church. Here in northern Alberta, it could be as cold as minus 30 degrees Celsius with a foot of fresh snow to contend with, but the people will come.

Those who enter the sanctuary will immediately notice that the worship space has been decorated for this event. The windowsills are set with electric candles. Advent banners are hanging from the spaces between the window with the words 'Love', 'Peace', 'Joy' and 'Hope' as reminders of the topics of the Four Sundays of Advent. The bountifully decorated Christmas Tree occupies the space to the left of the chancel. Above and to the right is a very large red and white Moravian Advent Star. Christmas decorations are attached to the end of each pew.

From year to year very little changes. You can expect the pianist and organist to present a season introit of seasonal music to set the scene. Familiar carols reinforce the Christmas message.

One constant, and a distinctive part of our Moravian tradition in North America, is to distribute candles during the worship service to each person in attendance. As the candles are being distributed, the worship leader explains that the purity of beeswax candle reminds us of sinless life of Christ.

Following the passing of the candles along each pew, all will be reminded to hold the lit candle straight up as your neighbor lights their candle from yours. Members of the fire blanket brigade are at their posts as a precautionary measure.

A Children's Story often proceeds the Message which includes an invitation to the children to come forward and join the pastor in front of the pulpit.

Finally, the lights in the sanctuary are dimmed, and the main event is about to begin: singing of Morning Star. Soloists sing a line of the hymn and the congregation responds by singing the next.

In days gone by the soloists were most often children, but over time this privilege has been shared with adults, singing duets, trios, or quartets.

As the singing of Morning Star proceeds antiphonally, the overhead lights in the sanctuary are dimmed. Gradually, as the candlelight is passed from one person to the next, light overcomes darkness - a powerful message of the hope found in the birth of Jesus.

The service concludes with the singing of 'Joy to the World'. With the singing of the final verse, candles are raised. The message of Christmas is visibly expressed again.

Every year I am deeply moved by this point in the service. I feel so connected to the whole church family through this act of repeating this faithful lighting of the candles. It tells me again that Christ is the light of the world.

Following the benediction, people linger to pass greetings on to people who they have not seen for some time and to newcomers. Despite the cold outdoors and the darkness of winter, the joy of Christmas is palpable.

Br Bill Brese
Edmonton, Canada

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Church House is the Headquarters of the Moravian Church in the British Province and is located in London at:
Moravian Church House, 

5 Muswell Hill, 
London 
N10 3TJ

Tel:

020 8883 3409

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