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Pastors: Candlelight services serve as reminder of Christ's light

By Becky Bell
Dec. 22, 2017 at 11:49 p.m.

Jennifer Stephens, left, hlds her 2 year old daughter Ella Stephens, right, during the Grace Crossing United Methodist Church Community Christmas Candlelight Service Sunday, December 21, 2014, at Longview High School. (Kevin Green/News-Journal Photo)

Christmas Eve candlelight services have been a cherished tradition for churches in Longview and around the world for many years.

This year will be no different, as many Longview churches plan special services to mark the coming of Christmas.

First United Methodist Church Senior Pastor Jay Jackson said his church has offered candlelight services for more than 100 years, but the tradition of candlelight services itself traces back to Europe in the 1600s.

"It is a meaningful way to symbolize the light of Christ coming into the darkness in the world," Jackson said. "The advent wreath with the Christ candle in the center emulates (the light of Christ). Then we take that candle and light everyone's candle from that light, and you can see the light on their faces. The light of believers is magnified and has all the symbolism of light when Christ was born."

One candle of the advent wreath is lit each Sunday of December until the final one — the central Christ candle — is lit for the Christmas Eve candlelight service. The Advent candles represent hope, peace, joy and love.

"I will light the candle from the Christ candle and the light gets emulated and reflected into the faces of the people just as the light of Christ is supposed to be reflected in believers," Jackson said.

First United Methodist Church will have candlelight services at 7 p.m. in the church sanctuary and 11 p.m. in the chapel. A 4 p.m. Christmas Eve service for children will feature glow sticks to symbolize the life of Christ, and it will feature a reading of "The Christmas Story."

First United Methodist Church isn't the only church in Longview to plan a special Christmas Eve service.

At Macedonia Baptist Church, a candlelight service is set for 6 p.m. Sunday. J.P. Ford , the minister of administration, said members often bring their extended families to it. The service includes several Christmas songs, a brief message and then families come to the altar to take Communion followed by the lighting of candles.

"The religious significance of this service to me is just the reminder of how simple the birth of Christ was," Ford said. "He was born in a small town in a tucked- away place, and candlelight in the modern day is just a reminder of something simple and meek and peaceful."

Ford said the church has Christmas activities leading up to Christmas Eve. When the busyness ends, the candlelight service serves as a reminder of the true meaning of Christmas.

"We want them to remember this is the most important thing," Ford said.

At St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, the Rev. Mia Levetan works with her husband and co-pastor Nick Setzer to make both services offered on Christmas Eve special. St. Andrew Presbyterian Church has candlelight services scheduled at 5 p.m. and at 11 p.m. Sunday.

At the services, Levetan said, church members sing "Silent Night" together as they pass the light on from the central Christ candle. When everyone in the church has their candle, the group walks out to the portico to complete the service.

"My husband and I walk everyone out to the portico, and that's a symbol of carrying Christ's light out of the building and into the world," she said. "It's definitely a favorite and something folks look forward to in the congregation."

The candlelight service goes hand in hand with the church's motto of servicing with a love of Christ and a heart for community, she said.

"Our chief end in life is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever," she said. "Services like this become special to us because we are glorifying God and enjoying him."

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