It's been a long time since I've been to a midnight watch service. When I was a child, Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve were both carried out until Midnight....I remember the organist would "chime" the twelve strikes of midnight....and we would light the candles held by each person with their hands guarded by a circle of heavy paper (see the drawing in the sidebar). There was something magical in those services....for one thing, it's the only time of the year when we were allowed to stay up til midnight.. And if there was falling snow outside...I did not worry about getting home safely...rather I would be enraptured by the snow falling---lit up by the Christmas lights as it fell. I implicitly trusted my Daddy and my Father to get us home safely.
There also used to be a Thanksgiving service on Thanksgiving morning. My brother and I did not attend that service...We stayed home and with the Macy's Day parade playing on the TV, we cut out and glued construction paper into shapes like the Pilgrims and the Native Americans. (only we called them "Indians" back then). Our creations would grace the table as the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving spread.
These days, it is very hard to find a true "Watch Night Service" or on Easter, a "SunRise Service" ..no one wants the hassle of bundling up the kids and going out on a cold snowy night to go to a 4 hour long church service. And people are too married to their beds to arise before dawn. But something important is lost in those sins of convenience ...( is it a sin??) ...Because like David said when he purchased the threshing floor from a man who wanted to give it to him. David said "I cannot offer a sacrifice that cost me nothing." If we make it too easy to attend church, if we juggle around the times to make them convenient...are we not offering free sacrifices? And is that not a contradiction in terms? Does not our offering God our comfort and exhaustion put us in a place of "emptying" ourselves of our schedules, our sleep, our saftey (on snowy roads), and is that not a sweet fragrance in the nostrils of God? He certainly did give us that back and much more as he revealed himself to us in a new way each year.
Now Christmas Eves are the Silent Nights. No joyous singing flooding the sanctuary. No hearing of the Word read aloud. No. It's 7:00 and bang, we'd better be out by 8:00 or there will be hell to pay for the pastor.
Maybe I'm a relic of a lost time. A dinosaur. But I feel sad for the kids today that they do not have memories like mine. And back then the kids were not taken out of the service to watch DVD's...we were taught to sit and be quiet....the little ones fall asleep on mom's lap or shoulder...add the ones too old to sleep are lost in wonder...a wonder that Amazon cannot sell.