“Christmas Eve at 11pm.”
I remember it vividly.
“Why would anyone do services on Christmas Eve, especially at 11pm?” I asked. We were in a meeting, and Pastor Mark Quattrochi was asking the team about midnight services. I thought it was silly. Even so, it got approved, and he started our first late Christmas Eve service. It was great.
The midnight services grew as the church grew. When Mark started his own church, we had to decide whether to continue it or not. The answer was, “yes!” But who would speak and run it? There are a LOT of Christmas Eve services at GFC, and for the lucky volunteer, it would be an “extra mile” commitment. I said, “I will do it.”
The pastor who goes to bed early and gets up at 4:30am every morning just became the new midnight service pastor.
Over the years, I have found I really love the late Christmas services! It has become one of my favorite parts of Christmas. I have enjoyed watching it continue to grow into a unique experience.
For one, it had more traditional music. We found out that people actually like singing traditional Christmas music, and they know more of the words than they think. We took communion together. There is such a beautiful relationship in remembering Christ’s sacrifice on the cross while you welcome the birth of Christ. We lit candles. A lot of candles. This is the “power moment.” At the end of the message, the pastor lights a candle and takes the flame to someone in the crowd. That person would light another, and so on. To see a 2,200-seat auditorium progressively lit up by only candlelight is truly a beautiful moment. There is such a connection with the people in the audience – the lighting brings them together as one. (Such a great picture of the body of Christ.) Lastly, I have enjoyed the people who have come to call the midnight services their own. For many, it has become a regular part of their family’s Christmas, and seeing their faces year after year puts a smile on my face. A lot of our volunteers get the opportunity to settle in and enjoy a service of their own. I am grateful that so many who serve so unselfishly can have time with the Lord.
Over the years, Christmas Eve and the midnight service has impacted me personally. I got to hold my first grandson, Jaxon, six days after he was born and talk about how a baby changes everything. One year, I had the honor of having my dad be the first candle I lit, and the following year, it was Pastor Ralph. Two men who I love and respect greatly. For a few years, I was blessed to have Taylor, Casey, and their spouses leading the service in worship. Those years of serving together and watching them use their gifts are some of my favorite. Walking on stage after the music had quieted, and seeing Kristin and Abby on the front row brought such joy to my heart. It was personal. This was our family’s service.
And when the candles had all been lit, and the clock hit 12:00am, we would stand together in peace. There was something so special about wishing people “Merry Christmas” literally seconds after it has arrived. It wasn’t about lights or presents in those moments…it was about The Light and His Presence—a very tender, rich moment.
As GFC has grown, we now incorporate many of the midnight service elements into all of our Christmas Eve services. It is still incredibly powerful. The songs, candles, and messages are amazing! It is wonderful that everyone gets to experience those unique elements of Christmas. Each service is special to me, and this year, I will be at all of them. And speaking this year at the 9:00pm at our Van Dyke campus.
I will be there at the 11:00pm service too…holding my candle with tears running down my face. If there ever was a year to have a moment with The Light and be in His Presence, it is this one.