Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Celebration of Christmas

By Rob Watson

Recently, I had cause to attend a religious service celebrating Christmas. It was of such a unique nature that I thought I would share it with others. Of course, it may be old and common to some folks, but it was new to me.

The choir was the Northwestern Chamber Choir. This is a group of 32 college students. They sang all but one interlude acapella. The service began with a choral piece. As the choir sang, the lights were lowered to near complete darkness in the church and the participants processed in and took their places. The pastor, entirely by the light of a single candle, greeted the congregation and read an opening prayer.

The core of the service was nine readings from the Bible. Each reading was related to the Christmas story. After each reading was a choral interlude of one or more religious pieces. During each interlude, two acolytes would come out and light a few candles. By the end of the service 80 candles lighted the front of the church.

The service was held in the Catholic Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. The main alter is a large and ornate structure made in several tiers, each supporting candelabras of different sizes. There are also side alters to the left and right of the main one. These also were made in tiers, each with candelabras.

The last reading was followed by the congregation joining the choir, singing "Oh Come All Ye Faithful"; followed by a final blessing from the pastor. As the participants processed out, the congregation joined the choir in singing "Hark! the Harold Angels Sing".

The choir was excellent. For the size of the group, it made a tremendous sound. If there was electrical assistance, that was done well enough so as not to be detectable.

Before the service began, two men hustled about handing out programs. These listed the readings and the musical pieces in order. Also included were the words to the two songs sung by the congregation. I, of course, sang without that assistance, as the building was still almost completely dark. (congregational participation thinned considerably on the third verse of each song.)

After the service had ended, the lights were turned up, and the audience gave the choir a very well deserved standing ovation.

The readings were:
1. Genesis 3: 8-15
2. Genesis 22: 15-18
3. Isaiah 9: 1, 5, 6
4. Isaiah 11: 1-9
5. Luke 1: 26-33
6. Luke 2: 1-7
7. Luke 2: 8-16
8. Matthew 2: 1-11
9. John 1: 1-14

May the peace and blessing of this holy season be upon all of you of good will!!

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