The Christmas season is a time of year made up largely of various traditions bringing people together, and for many, one of the most important customs is attending a Christmas Eve service.
Churches throughout Louisa County hold at least one service on Dec. 24 to celebrate the culmination of the Advent season, which celebrates the anticipation of Jesus’ birth, as well as to serve as a ringing in of sorts for the birth itself on Christmas Day. Most hold services in the early evening, at either 5 p.m or 7 p.m., while a few hold later services as well.
“Different people come at different times,” Reverend Alex Riffee, pastor at St. James Episcopal Church in Louisa, said.
St. James holds two services on Christmas Eve: an early service at 5 p.m. which is geared toward families with younger children and an 11 p.m. candlelight service that follows a more traditional worship structure.
“The two services are different because the needs of the people who attend them are different,” Riffee said.
In most cases, the observances follow a similar structure to regular Sunday services with the pastor delivering a brief message as the main focus of the evening. Music largely consists of traditional hymns, though some churches, for instance Mineral Baptist Church and New Life Community Church in Louisa, offer a mix of traditional and contemporary Christmas music at theirs.
While this abbreviated program is common for most churches, another popular style for the Christmas Eve service is the ‘Lessons and Carols’ service, which forgoes the traditional message in favor of multiple scripture readings separated by the singing of carols.
Mineral United Methodist Church holds its Lessons and Carols service at 5 p.m. each Christmas Eve. Nine scriptures are read, with a traditional Christmas hymn following each.
“I really enjoy hearing the whole story,” Erin Geoffrion, pastor at Mineral United Methodist Church and Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church, said. “There’s not many places where you can get that [on Christmas Eve].”
Candlelight is a classic part of most Christmas Eve services, regardless of which format they use. Some churches use it throughout their services, but most incorporate it during the singing of the final hymn, usually ‘Silent Night.’ For many, this is the highlight of the service.
“It’s very peaceful and a serene feeling to culminate the service that way,” Todd Lewis, pastor of New Life Community Church, said. “We turn the lights off and [you can] see the light spread throughout the sanctuary. It’s a testimony to Jesus’ light spreading throughout the world.”
Geoffrion said that she enjoys that portion of the service because it reminds her of her favorite Bible verse, John 1:5: “The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”
This is a partial article. Read the full story in The Central Virginian’s Dec. 20, 2018 issue.