Friday, December 25, 2015

Lifting the light

For the first time in several years, Kim and I were able to get away for a Christmas Eve lovefeast and candlelight service.

Work had always gotten in the way before, but not this time. A change in workplace policy freed up the time we needed to drive to Winston-Salem for the Christmas Eve service in the rather unique 12-sided English Gothic sanctuary at Christ Moravian Church on Academy Street.

There is magic that happens here. At least, it happens for me.

Lifting the light...
 The moment I entered the narthex I felt myself being taken to a different time, to a different place. I don't know how this occurs — it just does and I let it happen. It is my full-scale surrender to something whispering to me — what, canon? mandates? decrees? — in surprisingly gracious terms.

Immediately after Kim and I find a place to sit, a Moravian brass band trumpets out familiar Christmas carols, unseen from a back room. Meanwhile, I take in the sanctuary that is trimmed in greenery, a huge 110-point Moravian star glowing from a 20-foot ceiling. And now I am whisked away to a time when I was the son of a Moravian minister, with Dad conducting his own candlelight services.

It begins. From the balcony, a handbell choir chimes out "Mary, Did You Know?" Soon after, the lovefeast rolls and coffee are served.

History is everywhere here. The first Moravian lovefeast was held in 1727. The first candlelight service a little later in 1747. I suspect not much has changed in the service since then. One of the highlights is the singing of "Morning Star," usually a solo sung by a teen or pre-teen with responsive verses answered by the congregation.

And now the beeswax candles arrive. The house lights dim, but the star above us glows brightly. I take a candle and hand it to Kim. I take my own candle from the diener, light it, and pass the flame to my wife, who seems to be tearing up. It's hard for me to tell because my own eyes are somewhat liquid right now.

Then, as one, the congregation lifts its light to the ceiling. I am rejuvenated.

It's Christmas.

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