At long last, Christmas is here (Sunday). The buildup is part of the magic of it all, the songs, the anticipation, the gift buying, the card-sending, the tree decorating, lights in the yard, as well as the evergreen decorations around the house, the baking of yummy delicious Christmas treats, family coming together, and more make up the wonderful parts of Christmas time as we prepare for the birth of the Messiah (for Christians). Yes, it is a magical time indeed.
Hanukkah is here too, for that matter, as Hanukkah begins at Sundown on Saturday night (Christmas Eve). Hanukkah is actually one of the lesser Jewish holidays. It’s close proximity to Christmas elevates it. Still, it represents quite the miracle – the oil lasting eight days as symbolized by the Menorah. To celebrate that miracle, the Maccabeats have a a great tune about Hanukkah:
It’s a toe tapper, isn’t it? And educational to boot! I wish our Jewish family and friends a very Happy Hanukkah.
As I have mentioned here before, I grew up high church Episcopalian, meaning we had all the “smells and bells” that many Catholics have. My father was the organist and choir director at every church we attended growing up as well. Not only did we get to enjoy his practicing every Sunday morning before church, but my mom and I both sang in the choir. The big Christmas service for us, as it is for many of the Faithful now, was Midnight Mass. There was something so beautiful and mystical having this service at night, with the evergreens in all of the windows, and candles everywhere. The service was so profound on so many levels, as it incorporated both the mystery of creation as well as the sheer joy of the occasion.
One Carol my mom and dad sang together, with the choir singing the refrain, was this lovely piece with Mary and Joseph talking to each other:
Such a lovely, calming, soothing Carol, isn’t it? Most appropriate for the birth of the Baby Jesus, I think.
But that wasn’t the only service we attended. My mother, who was born in Winston-Salem, NC, grew up a Moravian, a Protestant denomination which began over 600 years ago in Moravia:
…The name Moravian identifies the fact that this historic church had its origin in ancient Bohemia and Moravia in what is the present-day Czech Republic. In the mid-ninth century these countries converted to Christianity chiefly through the influence of two Greek Orthodox missionaries, Cyril and Methodius. They translated the Bible into the common language and introduced a national church ritual. In the centuries that followed, Bohemia and Moravia gradually fell under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Rome, but some of the Czech people protested.
The foremost of Czech reformers, John Hus (1369-1415) was a professor of philosophy and rector of the University in Prague. The Bethlehem Chapel in Prague, where Hus preached, became a rallying place for the Czech reformation. Gaining support from students and the common people, he led a protest movement against many practices of the Roman Catholic clergy and hierarchy. Hus was accused of heresy, underwent a long trial at the Council of Constance, and was burned at the stake on July 6, 1415.
The reformation spirit did not die with Hus. The Moravian Church, or Unitas Fratrum (Unity of Brethren), as it has been officially known since 1457, arose as followers of Hus gathered in the village of Kunvald, about 100 miles east of Prague, in eastern Bohemia, and organized the church. This was 60 years before Martin Luther began his reformation and 100 years before the establishment of the Anglican Church. […] (Click here to read the rest.)
Moravians have a service called the Lovefeast. They would hold on every Christmas Eve at The Little Church On The Lane, a lovely Moravian church in Charlotte, NC. We would go there first with my grandmother (Mom’s mother) before we went to Midnight Mass. It is a lovely service, and includes Moravian Love feast buns* and coffee, made a certain way, as well as beeswax candles. (*Dewey’s Bakery in Winston-Salem is THE place to get all things Moravian. Their Lovefeast buns, and Sugar cake, along with wafer thin ginger snaps and so much more.) All of those things combined for a child was sheer delight, especially because it meant time with my Granny, whom I adored.
What, you might ask, is a Lovefeast? It has a long and storied history:
Lovefeasts originated in the first gathering of Christians after Pentecost…The lovefeast of Apostolic times was resuscitated in its original simplicity by the Moravian Church in 1727. ..
The lovefeast is primarily a song service, opened with prayer. Often there is no address; the hymns in the ode, or order of service, furnish the subject matter for devotional thoughts. If many visitors are present, the presiding minister often says a few words, explaining the purpose of the service, just before the congregation partakes of the bun and coffee, or whatever is served. On special occasions an address may be added, giving opportunity to remind the congregation of the history of the anniversary or the deeper import of the day. […] (Click here to read the rest.)
If you want to get an idea of what a Lovefeast service is like, you can watch the following video:
I agree with the Chaplain above – the Lovefeast is a great way to kick off Christmas. Good coffee, delicious Lovefeast buns, beeswax candles, and singing of Carols is a good beginning indeed.
Christmas, and Hanukkah, are indeed beautiful, mysterious, magical times, but the Holidays can also be difficult for those who are alone or who may be estranged from their families. During this season of Love and Peace, if you are able to open your hearts and homes to those who would otherwise be alone and lonely, please consider doing so.
No doubt about it, this is one of my favorite times of the year. And the music of Christmas is a huge part of that. I am sure you all have favorite Carols or Hymns, and I invite you to share them in the Comments.
One last thing: there really are twelve days of Christmas. It isn’t just a song . It begins with Christmas, not ends with it. The reason there are twelve days is that is how long it took the three Wise Men to arrive to pay homage to Jesus. So no need to rush to take down that tree. You can enjoy it for a while longer!
Finally this Christmas, I will leave you with this stirring Caril and call, “O Come, All Ye Faithful” from Westminster Abbey:
Merry Christmas to all!