Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Eve in Greenwich Village

University Floral Design on University Place.

Last night on Christmas Eve TD and I trundled over to University Place to have a holiday drink with my long-time friend Abigail and her family. I met Abby the third month I lived in New York in 1983 and we have been great friends since. Now she's married and has three beautiful children – such a delight to see on Christmas Eve. Then TD and I headed over to Grace Church, built in 1846 on Broadway, for their service called A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols (our church Judson Memorial held a festive Christmas service this past Sunday). We had been to this Christmas service at Grace once before and I have wanted to return.

At the very beginning, the choir, led by children, proceed into the church, each holding a candle. The few children's voices peal out, delicate and clear like a bell. Bingo. Tears in the eyes. It's so beautiful. So simple. Really transporting.
The choir proceeding in:

The service included many wonderful carols and readings. The Reverend J. Donald Waring gave the sermon. He spoke about Christmas being "a thin place" where heaven meets earth. I knew what he was talking about – those unique places where or moments when you are beyond the realities of the world and experiencing something special that is removed from the grind of everyday life.

The lights in the church dimmed and the congregation knelt to sing "Silent Night." We each had received a candle at the front door, and now they were lit, neighbor to neighbor. There were no instruments, just the rising voices and candle light in the darkened church. We were in a thin place.

It reminded me of Christmas Eves in my childhood. This was when we lived in the little Cape Cod house on Morris Circle in New Hartford. We always invited for dinner my grandparents, my father's parents, and my aunt Betty who lived with them; she passed away two years ago. Towards the end of the evening, the lights in the living room were turned off and we sang around the colorful Christmas tree. After "Silent Night" Betty always said, "That one is my favorite."

A few more carols, and the choir proceeded out.

It really was a beautiful thing.

I am wishing you many thin places, wherever you may find them.

We usually celebrate a jolly Christmas Eve in Montclair with my brother Eric's family but this year there was a change of plans – right now we are packing for Mexico! My brother Thom has invited the family to join him in Puerto Vallarta to celebrate his birthday. We are very excited to say the least. Feliz Navidad and Happy New Year!


An Aesthete's Lament said...

I love Grace Church. It's like worshipping in a building made entirely of lace. So beautiful, though I haven't been there in years.

Errant Aesthete said...

Your choices, as always, are exquisite. One glance at that little shop window clustered with tiny trees and I was, to use your word, transported.

Years back, I attended that same service at Grace Church and know of what you speak. Apart from a similar service in Venice on Christmas eve held in another shrine of architectural and spiritual splendor, nothing has ever, remotely, come close to matching it.

A beautiful tribute to that most sacred of nights.

Bart Boehlert said...

Thank you to my Aesthete friends! Happy 2010 to you --

Unknown said...

Bart -- it was lovely to have you and Ted over for a Chri9stmas Eve glass of winde. So glad you enjoyed the service, and the sermon. I think Don is a great preacher, and I also loved what he said about "thin places." Can't wait to see you soon. Love, Ab