Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Eve at Leeds Church

For us, this will be a different sort of Christmas than for many families, since there will be no ingathering of relatives in Hume and no travel to distant places to visit them. But there was an opportunity to experience this vicariously, last evening, when I attended the 5:00 service at Leeds Church. This was a service for families, including small children, a time when our Leeds Minister Linnea Turner is at her very best. There were also teen agers, university students returning home for the holidays, young-marrieds, grandparents (like me) and great grandparents. Our 150 plus year old church was filled to overflowing with a noisy crowd.

We sang traditional carols and then Linnea invited children up to the altar to decorate our small crèche, a Leeds tradition. Not only the space surrounding the altar-rail, but more than half the aisle to the back of the church were filled with children, along with a few parents escorting the shyest ones. Teen agers in the pews, and some parents and grandparents too, were not doubt recalling similar pre-Christmas services in this same setting.

The scripture readings were the traditional ones (Isaiah 7:14 and Luke 2:1-20), but instead of preaching a Christmas sermon, Linnea drew it forth “out of the mouths of babes” by questioning the children. By time of the preparation of the Eucharist – that story is, of course, more appropriate to Easter than Christmas − the church was still. It remained so as a community of more than 200, men women and many children, knelt at the alter to receive bread and wine or, if they were not taking communion, a blessing.

Following the service, many gathered on the lawn, on this crisp winter night under the stars for a few moments of conversation and community, before going our separate ways. At 11 PM, there would be another service – quieter and more spiritual, but less filled with energy and a multigenerational experience of community.


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