Christmas Eve! It is one of the biggest days of the year for the church. More people are open to attending a service on Christmas and Easter than on any other day of the year. It makes sense – they are the two biggest Protestant holidays. Here are a couple of my thoughts from this years Christmas Eve services at GFC:
– Wow! We had a lot of services. We incorporated all of our weekend services (2 on Saturday, 3 on Sunday) into our Christmas Eve schedule, along with 1 on Monday and 3 on Christmas Eve. It’s not that we like to have lots of services but it sure helps with people flow and parking. Then you add our campuses in Temple Terrace and Citrus Park and we had 5 more.
– Yes, services are tiring even when you don’t preach. Here is a shocker for some of you who know me – I am an introvert. I have worked hard to develop good people and communication skills. And I must admit, I love hearing a person’s story much more than when I was younger. Yet, after a weekend of services, I recharge by reading or time alone. By the time we finished all the Christmas Eve services, I was ready for a nice day of quietly puttering around the house, working out, and reading. It isn’t really flashy, but that is me.
– I love seeing all the people. (Ironic statement after the one before.) I really have a deep love for the people of GFC. I do not have any immediate family in Tampa and so many of the GFC family have stepped into some special relationships in my life. I am humbled by the people who attend Grace and they are just fun to watch as they grow in their relationship with the Lord.
– The volunteers at GFC are the BEST! If you were to ever watch people using their gifts and talents to serve other people, you would know what I am talking about. I could take a long time telling you amazing stories but it would take too long. This is the true heart of GFC. Every Christmas Eve, I get to do the 11 pm candlelight service. The people who volunteer to make that happen blow me away every time. We are all tire and yet they serve so others can enjoy one of the most picturesque visuals of our Christmas season.
– My family celebrates Christmas “whenever.” My family is used to celebrating Christmas whenever it is best for that year. We have done Christmas Eve, Christmas day, and even a few days before or later. I am blessed that all my children understand that the church services take priority in this season. This year, I had to go back up to prepare for the 11pm service and found out that the kids opened their “Christmas pajamas” that Kristin makes ever year while I was gone. The good news is this – we value the family time way more than the event of Christmas – we adapt, and enjoy the time together.
– The 11pm Candlelight Service is mind-blowing. I am giving full credit to Pastor Mark Quattrochi for coming up with this idea. When he first suggested it to us, I was asking “who would come out at that time of night?” I am so grateful he did it anyway. After he left, I volunteered to be the pastor of this service mainly because I wanted to give the rest of the staff the rest of Christmas Eve off. Little did I know how much I would get out of this service. It isn’t because it is one of the few times I get to speak. It’s a lot of things – the last Christmas Eve service, the people who come back to serve and attend, Communion, traditional carols and worship, whole families sitting together and yes, the candlelight. Watching a whole room fill up with individual candles and meld into one unified light really moves me. The one word that comes to mind is hope. That candle symbolized the light of hope flickering and then gaining strength. This year we lit candles and worshipped to the song “Holy” by Matt Redman. It was powerful. I am so grateful that I get to be at that service each year.
Christmas has now come and gone. The new year is only a few days away. It is time to rest because the next wave of ministry is coming….2014 is going to be amazing!