Mary’s Song

Well, it wasn’t your typical Christmas Eve service. We set out not knowing what to expect. A “drive thru” morning Christmas Eve service—what does that even look like? We’re used to an hour service at night with cantata, communion, and candlelight. But these days of the pandemic are truly unprecedented. So, with masks in-hand, we set out for worship.

We pulled up in front of our local UMC building, cracked the windows, and were greeted warmly with gifts for the kids. My wife was curbside, so she threw her mask on and handled the exchange. We then pulled up a car length, in assembly-line fashion, to receive the prepacked elements. The pastors prayed for us, made small talk, and ushered us along. We paused briefly to hear the choir singing carols. And that was it.

We left with the bread and wine (of course, grape juice for the kiddos) and took the long way home to check out the light decorations around the neighborhood. We figured we would finish our communion time at home, just the five of us.

When we sat down later for dinner, we got the text from a friend that our goddaughter was just then playing Mary in their Christmas Eve service. So over dinner, we enjoyed another service, this time via virtual Zoom, to hear and watch our goddaughter recite her lines and sing—she knocked it out of the park!

We finished dinner, not expecting, although just in time, for communion with our friend’s congregation. As the pastor recited the liturgy, we explained to the kids why we were doing this at home and then partook of the elements. The service concluded with a candle-lighting ceremony. So, we joined in virtually with about fifty others to celebrate our Savior come, the light of the world.

Pourquoi. Lit candle. (22590133777).jpg

Altogether, the day was a unifying experience, bringing our family together with two congregations for a drive-thru virtual Zoom Christmas Eve experience.

Despite all the adversity and unexpected encountered this year, we find ourselves once again at the end of the year embracing hope. Although 2020 has been marked by untold pain and heartache, this year, as any other, culminates in the celebration of the birth of Jesus. The Savior of the world has come, dwelt among us (John 1:14) and given us of the Holy Spirit (14:16-17). Thus, we rejoice with Mary, as recorded in Luke chapter 1:

My soul magnifies the Lord,
     And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
    Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation. (46-50, NRSV)

Luke’s narrative of Christ’s birth, the most detailed of any of the Gospels, offers us this precious glimpse in hymn form of our Lord’s majesty. Mary’s song comes with the assurance that the Mighty One will indeed again bring light to the dark places and peace to guide us on the path ahead (v. 79).

Published by Paul J. Palma

Paul J. Palma is a professor of Christian history and theology at Regent University. He is the author of the books "Embracing Our Roots: Rediscovering the Value of Faith, Family, and Tradition," "Italian American Pentecostalism and the Struggle for Religious Identity" (Routledge Studies in Religion series), and "Grassroots Pentecostalism in Brazil and the United States: Migrations, Missions, and Mobility" (Palgrave Macmillan). He is also a contributing writer for Paul enjoys spending quality time with his family on walks together, going to the beach, fishing, and doing work around the yard.

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