Palmer remembers traditional Christmas Eve worship

Palmer remembers traditional Christmas Eve worship

Palmer Cantler, a graduate of Wofford College, is in her first year at Duke Divinity School.

Holston friends share scenes from seasons past. Part 6 in a series.

Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church
Johnson City, Tenn.


My favorite Christmas memory cannot be narrowed to one year, nor can I express a single story. My memories of Christmas seem to be an accumulation of the same moment from many years that define the holiday for me.

As much as I love all of the good food, the plethora of desserts, and unwrapping of goodies under the tree, it has always been worship on Christmas Eve that is most significant.

For as long as I can remember, my family has attended one of the Christmas Eve services at Munsey Memorial UMC. Whether it was dressed as bathrobe shepherds, singing in the praise team or even just sitting in the pews, Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without this service.

Each year, my parents, brother, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins would end up squished in a pew at the 10:30 p.m. service. All who were in town were crowded into that pew surrounded by family and friends who had done the same. We sang and proclaimed the birth of the Messiah, united as a congregation and family.

Now as I am growing up and able to choose where I want to worship (and even thinking about how I hope to preach Christmas Eve myself one day), I refuse to miss the 10:30 p.m. service (where I once fell asleep). Part of me always hopes that it will be snowing as we exit the sanctuary at midnight, despite the fact that this year, it will be 70 degrees.

The number of family members in that pew has changed, but if I close my eyes I'm still able to hear the full family chorus. Maybe it is nostalgic, but I picture Christmas as Munsey's sanctuary filled with poinsettias, candles and angels loudly singing, "Glory to God in the Highest!" Christmas would not be complete without this yearly tradition, full of memory and hope.

At 22, I will still be praying for snow and watching for someone else to fall asleep in the pew. But I will also be celebrating the company of angels surrounding me and those watching from above while we sing at the top of our lungs.


See other memories in the series.


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