A friend of mine writes of his Christmas experience in a European village:
“The first thing that struck me when we arrived at the church was the sight of hundreds of candles in the cemetery, it seemed like every grave had one. The families were there too, remembering their loved ones. Then the bells started ringing, the signal that the service was about to begin.
The minister, the female minister, greeted every single person at the door. There were candles everywhere, and near the altar, a magnificent Christmas tree with real candles, quite a sight to behold. When the bells stopped ringing, the minister sat with the congregation and the organist started playing. This was followed by ‘Away in a manger’. The mood was very contemplative, the atmosphere very intimate, it was like being on a retreat.
There were three guests who sat at the altar, a midwife, a mother and an animal keeper, and all 3 talked about birth, about nurturing new life. The minister also spoke and linked what they said to Christ’s birth. She concluded by telling the congregation that they should be filled with hope, that they should nourish their dreams, their ideas, and that they shouldn’t be afraid of taking risks to make them come true. This was followed by one of the most beautiful versions of ‘Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht’ (Silent Night, Holy Night) I’d ever heard. Then we all said The Lord’s Prayer. It was such a simple, moving meditation, I think you would have been touched by the sincerity. I know my mum would have loved the beautiful voices of the choir.”