Experience Christmas is a 19-day devotional series based on the Scriptural narrative and aimed at creating space during a beautiful, but hectic time of year to wonder at the miracle of Christmas. You’re joining us on day eighteen – Christmas Eve – with music from Lindsey Stirling and a devotional encouraging us to stop and look closely for one last thin place this season.
Watch & Listen
Growing up we always celebrated Christmas Eve with my dad’s parents.
Before the stockings and presents and everything a child could want on Christmas Day, there was Oma and Opa’s house, and the quiet of Christmas Eve.
Oma and Opa were simple people; German immigrants who left their family and home for a new life in America before my dad was born. Christmas Eve at their house kept that simplicity close. In place of a tree, red poinsettias and candles and fresh evergreen branches decorated their table. Gifts leaned heavily on predictability and practicality; a bag of pfeffernusse cookies, a bar of marzipan, and an envelope of cash slipped to my parents for our college fund. We ate duck or chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy and plates of vegetables I always passed over. For dessert we had Oma’s homemade fruit tarts and streuselkuchen, and drank lemon-lime soda with juice for as long as we could get away with.
At some point, Opa would feel his way to the living room and lower himself to the old wooden chair by the television set to find his violin case. For as long as I knew him, Opa was blind. Still every Christmas, as if to beckon everyone away from the chatter and the dishes, he brought out his violin, tuned it to his pitch pipe, and began playing his favorite carol.
Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin, mother and child
Holy infant, so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.
Slowly the background noise would fade. Everyone would make their way into the room, while he’d sway in time to the music, and we’d sing – some in English, some in German. When Opa pulled his bow across the string for the last note, there was a beat of silence before my dad or my uncle would pray a prayer of thanksgiving for the year we’d been able to share, and a blessing for the year that was to come.
I was so young. Only thirteen the last time we shared a Christmas together like that. I didn’t fully understand the significance of that family moment, except that this was what we did on Christmas Eve before bundling up to go to a service on our way home.
Now I can see what a gift it was that Opa gave to us.
A moment in one of the best and busiest times of year to pause and reflect –
To feel with our ears and our hearts and our voices –
And to look closely for one last thin place of the season.
Silent night, Holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth
Jesus, Lord at thy birth.
I’ve never been able to listen to Silent Night without that certain feeling of reverence carried over from the Christmas Eve’s spent at my grandparents’ house. And like my Opa beckoning us with his violin from the kitchen, it beckons me to stop and consider what holiness we celebrate at Christ’s birth.
How He changed the world –
How He changed me –
With His coming.
Silent night, Holy night
Shepherds quake, at the sight
Glories stream from heaven above
Heavenly, hosts sing Hallelujah.
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born.
– Words by Joseph Mohr, music by Franz Gruber
What matters most today is that we take the time to wonder at the manger.
To give ourselves space to find the thin place,
To let the Light flood into our hearts,
To listen and feel and be drawn in by the miracle we’ve been given,
And then to share it through the life that we live.
- What Christmas Eve traditions do you (or your family) have that honor the Savior?
- What tradition could you start new this year?
- How will you wonder at the manger today?
Thank God for the gift that Jesus is to the world and to your life.
Lord thank you for the miracle that came to us over two thousand years ago as a baby in a manger. Thank you that Jesus came to rescue us and to offer us real and full life. Warm us with your presence, and help us to celebrate you with undivided hearts today.
For a complete list of devotional posts visit the Experience Christmas series page. Sign up to receive posts directly via email by completing the online subscription form and join in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter by using the hashtag #ExperienceChristmasDevotional.