Advent, Day 27 (Christmas Eve)

LOOK: Queueing for Christmas by Sadao Watanabe

Watanabe, Sadao_Queueing for Christmas
Sadao Watanabe (Japanese, 1913–1996), Queueing for Christmas, ca. 1960. Stencil print, 6 × 16 in. © Tatsuo Watanabe, used with permission.

To view a catalog of works by Sadao Watanabe, one of the twentieth century’s most celebrated Christian artists, visit sadaohanga.info. See also the Image journal article “Profound Faith, Profound Beauty: The Life and Art of Sadao Watanabe” by John A. Kohan.

LISTEN: “The Bells” by Lee Bozeman, on Jubilee (2019)

Ring the bells for Christmas Vigil
Ring the bells and light your candles now
The stars are out

All the angels with covered faces
Let all mortal flesh keep silence now
All devout
Keep silence now
All devout

Ring the bells in every tower
Ring the bells, let every hour tell
All will be well

All the faithful come together
Hear the name they love and know so well
Emmanuel
All is well
Emmanuel

Ring the bells for Christmas Vigil
Ring the bells and light your candles now
The stars are out
Keep silence now
All devout

Lee Bozeman’s Jubilee is a wonderful little acoustic EP with three originals and a traditional. The title track, which Bozeman refers to as “a sorrow,” begins, “The kids won’t be home for Christmas . . .” That’s followed by “The First Artificial Snow of the Year,” an instrumental piano piece with jingle bells. Then “Down in Yon Forest,” a Renaissance-era carol from England that Bozeman sings a cappella. And lastly, “Christmas Vigil,” my favorite of the four—slow and solemn like the others, with understated echo effects, and I don’t know what that sound is he’s producing for the last thirty seconds, but it suggests an arrival.

Christmas Vigil is a common practice across church traditions, though the particulars may vary. Many churches hold their vigil around midnight on December 24, the time when Christmas Eve gives way to Christmas Day, so that the congregation can welcome in the feast of Christ’s birth just as soon as the clock ticks over into the a.m. (We have accounts of Midnight Masses being celebrated on Christmas Eve as early as the fourth century in Jerusalem.)

Other churches hold their Christmas Eve service earlier in the evening. Candlelight and corporate carol singing are usually involved. Churches that have lit an Advent wreath for each of the previous four Sundays will complete the wreath by lighting the Christ candle in the center.

Some Christians worship at home instead on this day with just their own family unit, perhaps with an informal liturgy or with special family traditions.

No matter how you mark the day, I pray that you are filled with excitement for God’s arrival in human flesh—that divine gift of himself—and with the peaceful assurance that, as God promised, all will be well.

This is the final post in the 2021 Advent Series—thank you for journeying with me through the season! Daily posts will continue throughout the twelve days of Christmas to the feast of Epiphany on January 6.

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