Noted Canadian sociologist, University of Lethbridge professor Dr. Reg Bibby, suggests that 1 in 3 Canadians will attend a religious gathering this Christmas season.  We were two of them last evening.  My wife and I sought out a Christmas eve service.  We are empty nesters with grandchildren.  We were looking for something later in the evening, something traditional with candles and carols, we were looking for serenity and stability.  We found it–at the First Baptist Church in downtown Vancouver, BC.

Vancouver : First Baptist Church

It felt strangely calming as we drove through the nearly deserted streets of downtown Vancouver heading toward the church.  What was ordinarily a 35-40 minute drive any other time of the year took 12 minutes.

The church is old, but not decrepit.  The smell of “wood” is arguably the predominant sense.  Rows and rows of wooden pews with wooden floors, with wooden overhanging balconies cause for the building the creak as worshippers enter the sanctuary.

The minister greeted us warmly and made us feel welcome, even appreciated.  The readers brought passages of Scripture from the Gospels.  The song leaders led us in traditional Christmas Carols.  A soloist soared through a wonderful Christmas piece with clarity and passion.  Then the minister got up to speak.  In less than 25 minutes he brought us the edge of our seats in anticipation (he’s a good story teller) and settled us back in our seats with appreciation (he’s  good preacher).  He wove the baby Jesus story with the Saviour Jesus story and it worked.  The babe was both.  And we felt it.  It was so strong to hear the comfort of the Gospel preached.

Today was Christmas and it had a different perspective than last night.  It was filled with family, and presents, and children and grandchildren, and wrapping paper, and turkey, and pleasantry, and fun, and fatigue.  I loved this day.  I think it’s the best family day of the year.

But last night was the rich Christmas for me.  At the end of his message the minister invited volunteers to come forward and light candles from the Christ Candle in the Advent wreath.  And, as the house lights went down, they delivered light to the waiting worshippers and we lit our Christmas candles.  Slowly, the darkened room lit up again but it was from the glow of 100’s of candles.  Jesus was the light of the world in a very observable way.

And to top it off, at the end we quietly and gently sang the simple words of Joseph Mohr,…”Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright…”  The preacher pronounced the “amen” upon conclusion but we didn’t want to leave.  It felt good.

How was your Christmas eve?