Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Reflections on the Mt. Pleasant Christmas Candlelight Celebration

We all have favorite Christmas memories that are brought to life with certain aspects of Christmas celebrations.  For some of us, the taste of hot chocolate on a winter’s night takes us back to our youth; a time with a grandmother or grandfather beside a crackling fireplace.  For others, it is the sight of snow that makes us think of the awe of childhood Christmas mornings where snow was dusting the pines outside as the smell of bacon and biscuits filled the air and glittering packages were shining around the tree.  No matter how old we get, those memories still stir our hearts with joy and excitement.  At times, we reminisce about those days and almost wish we could go back in time when life seemed to move slower and stress wasn’t even a part of our vocabulary. 

This past weekend many of us witnessed Mt. Pleasant’s first Christmas Candlelight Celebration, and for me, I had an opportunity to experience so many things that would stir my heart like that of a child.  As each service began, there were fresh homemade cookies for all to enjoy, and the cookies were paired with your choice of hot chocolate or hot apple wassail as Christmas lights lit the sanctuary.  As for me, this inspired excitement and made me feel like a child eagerly anticipating Christmas morning.  Then, as the lights went down and the music started, the excitement began to find fulfillment in the events of the service.  The sounds of Christmas carols filled the air and those songs would bring to mind Christmas times of old.  Just when I thought it could not get any better, the Celebration would slowly begin to transition from just a mere celebration to true worship.

As I stood in the Choir hoping to worship God with a song, I was blessed to see people of every age, both male and female, experiencing the sights and sounds of the service, but better than that, I began to see those same people
experience the joy of God’s presence.  Their faces would light up as they saw snow falling and children playing.  As
many would sing along, you would see hands lifted in praise to our King.  It is hard to explain, but the joy and peace that were on the faces of those worshiping God were so genuine and God-honoring.  Then, as each service progressed and the drama team presented their telling of the Christmas story, you could see hearts drawn to the story.  Those hearts hanging on every word as the greatest story ever told was being displayed.  The birth of Jesus was brought to the forefront of each person’s mind as they watched and listened carefully.  

As those same hearts thought of a baby laying in the manager over two thousand years ago, Pastor Kevin would go on to tell the reason for the birth of Jesus.  He would powerfully share the gospel and remind each person that Jesus is not another god on the buffet line of gods.  Jesus is the one true God---The Way, The Truth and The Life.  Through the excitement of the service and the happiness experienced by each aspect of the celebration was fresh on each person’s mind, each person was reminded to make room for Jesus in their life, for without the Light of Jesus Christ in our lives, joy is only temporary.  Each person was given the opportunity to receive the greatest gift ever given, salvation in Jesus Christ.  With my head bowed, I could hear Pastor Kevin speaking of the risen hands which were indicating the desires of hearts turning back to Christ or hearts being given over to Jesus.  For those people, a night of celebration was life-changing, both here on Earth and in eternity.

God’s work would not stop there though as candles were lit throughout the sanctuary.  As the Choir, Praise Team and each person filling the seats of the sanctuary begin to sing
Silent Night in their own unique voices or with Sign Language, I could not help but think of the Sabbath rest found in Jesus.  The peace of the moment was surreal as so many lifted their voices in worship and praise.  Our hearts were taken back to a time when the birth of a child changed everything and the silence of God was broken by the cries of His Son.  The glow of candlelight overtook the darkness, and we could each see how much true light affects the darkness.  I was left wanting more, only to be reminded that God is always with us and we can experience His presence anytime we will get still enough.  

The first Christmas Candlelight Celebration was a success because an event went from entertainment to worship.  Jesus Christ was exalted and the real reason for the season shown through.  It reminded us that Christmas means Christ-worship.  Has it inspired you to show the Light of Life to those around you?  Have you made room for Christ this Christmas?  Will you slow down long enough to experience the joy of His presence or will the moments of peace and silence this past weekend seem out of reach?  My hope is you will take the opportunity to make Christ everything this Christmas.


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