Notes on a Christian Christmas Eve Service

Notes on a Christian Christmas Eve Service December 25, 2023

Notes on a Christian Christmas Eve Service

Last evening, Christmas Eve 2023, I attended a Christmas Eve service at a (to me) non-descript, independent church away from my home city. I had never been there before, but in advance I examined the church’s web site and tentatively judged that it is non-denominational in the truest sense (I could find no hint of any denominational affiliation). It’s name is Town Christian Ministries. (“Town” here is a fill in for the name of the town.)

The church was beautiful in a modern way and fit into the geography perfectly.  The sanctuary was packed well before the service began and so I sat in something we used to call an “overflow room.” There were too few hymn sheets to go around; I didn’t get one. It was somewhat difficult to tell when the service began as the worship band was playing and singing a secular “Christmas song” when I came in. There followed a reading of scripture from Isaiah and from Luke from a translation I did not recognize. Instead of “inn” it said “hospice.” There was for Mary and Joseph no room in the “hospice.”

There followed singing by the worship band of several religious Christmas carols with many changed words. Because I didn’t have a hymn sheet I couldn’t quite make out all the changes or, of course, the reasons for them.

Then a man who did not identify himself stood and delivered something like a sermon or homily or meditation. I caught the words “feeling,” “The Divine,” “naming the Divine,” “experiencing the divine,” “story” and “experiencing the divine.” These were repeated many times throughout what I will call the meditation. The speaker never mentioned God or Jesus and emphasized that each individual gets to name “the divine” for himself or herself based on his or her life story.  At the end of his meditation he said that a Christmas miracle is that everyone present could look his or her neighbor in the eyes and there experience the presence of community.

The most astonishing thing was that from beginning to end there was no prayer. No prayer in a Christian Christmas Eve service. No mention of God except in the carols sung (mostly only the worship band sang as far as I could detect) and scriptures read.

The speaker did speak about “Immanuel” and said that whenever he hears the word he thinks of “the divine’s” with-ness.

What to make of this Christmas Eve worship experience? I will ask you to respond as you wish (relatively briefly, on topic, with civility and respect, addressed to me, and without pictures or links).


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