Silent Night

6a00d8357f3f2969e20192ab30ed93970dI love reading the memories of Christmas past and Hanukkah past, from the many posters from Facebook and my circle of friends.  I am blessed to hear how families would decorate their trees, and light the candles, or send out Christmas cards with the family year in review letter, or sing songs, or share a meal, or pass out gifts,  or do what was done to turn the act into a tradition or ritual with meaning beyond the actual event.  I makes me think back on all we use to do as a family at the Thanksgiving to Christmas season and recall all the stuff we did together. the Fulton traditions.

OK,  I am done.  Nothing comes to mind. Nada.  We did a tree, we passed out gifts, we ate two nice meals, enjoyed leftovers, watched football.  Activities yes,  and we would also…. Traditions, Blank.  I have nothing to share.

I did not miss the traditions growing up is a marginally dysfunctional family.   I guess it is hard to know you might miss them, until you are 60 and unmarried, and without children, and well you get the picture.

Let me make it clear, this is not a sad time for me by any stretch on my imagination.  There are just no great family traditions.  I am blessed that many have them to share.

But I did have one.   A Bob Fulton, would not miss tradition.   From about 1961 until many years later, there was the Late Evening Candle Light Communion service at Colonial Presbyterian Church in Kansas City every Christmas Eve.  From grade school though college and years beyond, I would look forward to this special hour of worship and song, and choirs, and homily by Rev. Ted Nissen.

The Sanctuary I worshiped in burned and was replaced.  Ted has since passed to reside in heavenly places.  But I remember.

No Christmas Carols have ever sounded better, than the ones song that evening by the hundreds of gathered pilgrims.  Some coming for their one of three visits a year to the Church.  College students returning home.  Families together.  Great organ music.  And the Candle Light communion.

As we entered the sanctuary, each of us was handed a program and a 4″ white candle with a little paper drip protector surrounding it.  And I would cradle that candle in my hand for an hour.  The warmth of my skin would soften the wax.  I must confess I would make little shapes this taper.  But through the service as it progressed,  came the anticipation of something I was so struck by, then eagerly awaited every year for over a decade.

The closing act.  One candle lit in the front center of the cavernous sanctuary.  And suddenly all electric lights were extinguished.  (In the early days, the darkened chapel did not even have the now required lighted exit signs.) One candle.  Trust me, the church was dark.  The Rev. Ted would light his little 4″ candle from the large center alter candle.  Then Ted would light one candle of an Elder on his left and one candle of an Elder on his right.  And then there were four.  The center candle and three soon to be travelers.  In the background, the organ played “Silent Night.”  And the travelers left the stage to pass to the first pew at the center aisle to light the seated parishioner’s candles. And the light began to move through the chapel, outward and backward.  And the darkness was waning, and the light was waxing.  And the light grew in brightness.  A striking brightness like I had not known before.  It is a Light that still burns in my spirit to this day.  And in my holiday memory.  I can feel the temperature rise in the room.  And the temperature did rise as over 400 candles were ignited.  And then, the Recessional, and we sung together..  Joy… oh Joy to the World.

John 1:4-5 ” In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.   The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

This is my Christmas memory, and the best of my traditions past.  May you know light and warmth during this time.

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