I love it that amidst all the hustle and bustle, everyone sets aside their last-minute shopping, their cooking or baking, their gift wrapping, and comes to celebrate the advent of peace. "Truly he taught us to love one another; his law is love and his gospel is peace."
I love seeing the Christ candle lit and watching the flame flicker throughout the service: "God of God, light of light..."
I love seeing the children so excited, all dressed up in their finest. The girls in red and gold dresses, their sashes tied in big bows, their patent leather shoes gleaming. The boys in collared shirts, their hair neatly combed. "With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand."
I love hearing the voices of congregations raised in song: "Joyful and triumphant!"
I love the traditional closing of the service with the congregation singing Silent Night as they each light their candles, until the dimmed room glows with the light of hundreds of tiny flames. "Son of God, love's pure light."
I envision thousands of churches all over the world singing Silent Night just like this - in Austria, perhaps, and in Germany and France, in the cathedrals of Italy and in the chapels of Switzerland - pausing on this holy eve of the nativity to remember the birth of a baby that would change everything. "Born the King of angels..."
I love hearing the little sounds of the babies in the church: their coos, their sighs, and even their cries. Each a reminder of what we've gathered to celebrate - a God who took on frail humanity. "Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail th'incarnate deity!"
He knew he would be scorned, despised, and rejected.
He knew he would be spit upon.
He knew he would be crucified.
Yet he came anyway, and in the most unexpected of ways: a baby, born in a manger.
Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! The herald angels sing,
"Glory to the newborn King!"