There’s nothing like enjoying an evening with family and friends and the Annual Old Salem Candlelight Christmas service.
On December 1, the little country church welcomed as many people that could fit into its warm and cozy one-room sanctuary. By 4:50 pm, the building had almost reached its capacity. It didn’t seem anyone wanted to miss the special time together.
There is no electricity or running water, so everyone was warmed by the stove and oil lanterns and candles. The feeling of love permeated the atmosphere as people greeted each other with hugs and conversation.
Snacks loaded a table that needed sideboards with all the available choices. Hot apple cider and cocoa were awaiting anyone that wanted a little extra warmth. A huge pot was placed on the hot stove to keep the water hot.
Organizer Jean Bradley, who is a longtime supporter of the church’s semi-annual events, welcomed everyone to the special evening’s service.
She thanked ‘the Taylor girls’ (Kathy, Diane, Susie and Leeann) for the decorating touches and live Christmas tree with handmade ornaments that they worked so hard at for only one evening.
Bradley also shared that they decided not to take an offering for the evening. “We ask that you give to your favorite charity or to a family in need and think of us when you do that,” she said.
Everyone was given a candle for the end of the service. Bradley explained that the girls that volunteered will go to Cody and he would light their candle. “Then the girls will go to the end of each pew and light that person’s candle and then you light the person next to you until we are all lit. Does that sound good to you all?” she asked. The congregation erupted in laughter as she realized how it sounded. “I won’t say that again,” Bradley said with a smile.
Alex James, Youth minister of New Castle Christian Church, led the opening prayer and Pastor Cody Rader was in town and led the music, which was accompanied by D.R. Looney on the electric piano.
The melodic traditional Christmas songs echoed joy throughout the rafters and into people’s hearts, as many tapped their feet and sung along.
Bradley’s favorite song, ‘O Holy Night,’ was sung by Pastor Rader as a special.
The pastor also shared a special message on Christmas and what everyone would be doing for the next 25 days.
“What are you getting all geared up for?” he asked everyone. “It’s Christmastime. What is the most important thing you are focusing on? What would your relatives and loved ones say about you after Christmas is over? What are some of your favorite traditions?”
He also noted that Christmas has become a lot of things to so many.
“Our first answer really should be Christmas, because without Christ, there really would be no Christmas,” Pastor Rader said before adding, “This helps to usher into our hearts and minds a heightened sense of awe and wonder of what Christmas is all about.”
He continued, “There are good things as long as you aren’t falling headlong into granny’s eggnog.”
Adding, “There are good things that make the Christmas season special, like Christmas light excursions, or visiting the Santa’s, Christmas caroling, loud Christmas music, eating fresh apple cake or maybe you enjoy shopping. I don’t know why? But some of you enjoy getting out there in that mad dash. Maybe you like to give gifts or like Hallmark movies.”
He addressed the old song that says, “They help to make the season bright.”
“I do want to ask you though, when we talk about Christmas, how much do we talk about Jesus? As the 25 days of Christmas unfold, is most every day spent talking about him?” he asked. “Jesus really is the reason for the season. And, if it weren’t for him, believers and nonbelievers alike would not have a celebration because there would be no reason for joy.”
He added that most all stores have décor that spells out “JOY.”
Pastor Rader quoted Romans 6:23 that begins with, The ‘wages of sin is death.’ But continues with, ‘the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.’
He added that Christmas is and should be “so much more than lights, a tree, cheesy Christmas movies and the best apple cake.”
“It was at that moment that the king of Heaven exchanged His throne for a cradle and swaddled himself with vulnerability. It was in that moment that the Infinite became an infant and the Giver became the gift. Jesus arrived as Emmanuel – God with us,” Pastor Rader shared,
While leading everyone in closing prayer, he concluded by saying, “May we have this season, an ever-increasing appetite to draw nearer to the God who drew near to us.”
Pastor Sheldon Cosma of New Castle Christian Church closed in prayer, mentioning Jesus as being the ‘light of the world’ and a wonderful way to start the month of celebrating Jesus.
As everyone quietly blew out their Christmas candles, many reluctantly walked out the double doors, trying to soak in as much of the warm atmosphere as possible. Gentlemen stood at the door with lights and outreached hands to assist everyone safely down the steps.
“We will see you again next year,” seemed to echo many times.
Several shared how much they enjoyed the evening. Smiles were on every face as the church was slowly vacated and only it’s soft lights remained and the Christmas tree which seemed to draw one’s heart closer to the season.