We Need to Share the Magic

We Need to Share the Magic

Photo courtesy of Alex Shea Will. Church pictured is not the church highlighted in this post.
Ever since I was a little girl, I have absolutely loved Christmas Eve candlelight services.

There is something downright magical about sitting in a cavernous church sanctuary as it goes completely dark, save for that one flame at the front of the church. As that light gets passed from person to person, pew to pew, the space takes on a golden hue. And as people softly sing Silent Night, their faces glow from the candles they hold in their hands.

It always brings a lump to my throat.

It was a yearning for that experience that prompted me – at a time in my life when I had not been regularly attending church – to find my way to a Christmas Eve service, my son - then just a baby - bundled up in my arms.

The sanctuary was crowded. People I did not know sat on either side of me, in front of me, and in back. They seemed friendly enough. And yet, as the service went on, I struggled. It’s no easy feat to hold a squirmy baby – and keep him calm – while managing a hymnal and a multi-page worship bulletin. Add a lit candle to the mix, and it becomes impossible. I tried mightily to juggle it all.

I kept thinking someone sitting next to me would hold out their bulletin or hymnal for me to read along. Or offer to help in some other way. I was in church, after all.

But no. No one raised a finger to help. Frantic Christmas shoppers were more considerate than the people who sat around me in that church sanctuary that night.

Had I not been raised in the church – had that been my first experience with worship – I likely never would have gone back.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people in our communities who have been hurt by the church. Who have been turned away. For some, it’s been mere indifference, like what I experienced that Christmas Eve. For some it’s been outright discrimination, based on the color of their skin or the clothes they wear.  For some – for LGBTQ people in particular – it has been vicious condemnation.

It was easy for me to forgive what happened that evening. Those people might have been distracted by personal problems. They might have been visitors to the church too, uncomfortable in unfamiliar territory. I know how it is. I grew up in the church. I’ve worked nearly half my life in the church. I know we make mistakes.

But I also know that we have GOT to do better. And not just with the people who make it to our pews. We have got to reach out into our communities – to people who have been hurt or shunned or ignored – and spread the light to them. We’ve got to let them know they are beloved people of God. We’ve got to help them experience the magic that comes not just on Christmas Eve, but that comes from building a relationship with God within a congregation of people.

No one in our communities should feel alone or ignored. We, the church, owe it to them to do better.


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Tiffany Vail

Tiffany Vail is the Director of Media & Communications for the Southern New England Conference.

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