Gift of God to me and the world

Our final post in this Advent series is on the 5:00 p.m. Christmas Service. Glenn member Amy Bugg Burke writes on her own memories, reminding us of why it is indeed a community favorite and a beloved tradition.


When my dear friend Nancy Fleming found out I was pregnant with my son, she insisted that we should be the Holy Family at the Christmas Eve service the next year.

“But won’t Joseph be too old? He’s due in May!”

“No! He’ll just be an Epiphany baby! It will be great! You have to do it!”

Glenn’s 5:00 p.m. Christmas Eve Service is the most important of all my Christmas traditions. I have not missed a single year since I was about six weeks old – indeed, I have refused other plans at Christmas simply because they would mean missing this beloved service.

Although there have been a few years when I enjoyed being a part of the congregation, I much prefer participating. Growing up, I sang in the children’s choir, the Parish choir, and in a trio for “What Child is This?” I wore a paper mache donkey head (twice!) and spent several years as a rather ungraceful sacred dancer. After I went off to college, Nancy invited me back to help her wrangle dancers and 5th grade angels, which I did for many years (mostly so that I could spend time with her and enjoy one of the best seats in the house up on stage). Five years ago, I had the privilege of portraying the holy family with my husband and our son.

On that rainy Christmas Eve, Ryan and I somehow managed to make it to the front of the church and say our lines – the same lines I had been hearing (with minor tweaks here and there) every Christmas for 32 years. Moments later, we were headed behind the triptych to take the pillow out from under my robe and present “baby Jesus” to the congregation.

We brought Joseph out, and I proudly held him up for all to see while Ryan went to light the Christ candle. I had been afraid that Joseph would be too cold, or that he’d be afraid of the loud organ and bright lights, but he was comfortable in my arms and mesmerized by everything going on around him. It turns out that 7 months is a wonderful age to play baby Jesus! That year they also decided that Mary should sing a lullaby to the baby. Watching Joseph look around with wonder while I sang, I felt the rush of joy that all mothers feel for their young babies in those special, tender moments. Even now, tears spring to my eyes as I remember that sweet, warm baby in my arms (now a rowdy five year old). I find myself imagining another young girl on the very first Christmas night, also holding her new baby, warm and sweet:

Rock-a-bye, my dear little boy, dear little boy,
wonder of wonders, my blessing and joy;
slumber as I gently hold you,
let my tender love enfold you;
gift of God to me and the world,
here in my arms lies so peacefully curled.

Little Jesus, Infant Divine, Infant Divine,
one with the Father, yet born to be mine;
as I rock you calmly sleeping,
angel guards their watch are keeping;
precious child, one day we shall see
what love has destined for you and for me.

Whether this is your 1st, 38th, or 50th year at Glenn, I hope you will come and enjoy this special re-telling of the Christmas story at our Christmas Eve service. It may be a little crowded and noisy – babies will cry as parents strip sweaters off complaining toddlers – but by the end, when the candles are lit and we all sing “Silent Night,” you may also experience the joy and wonder of the Christ child, and the peace that he brings to us.

Amy Bugg Burke