Julotta and Candlelight: Celebrating Christmas Day and Night Across Nebraska

Recalling the brisk “take-your-breath-away” cold, those dozens of steps to the car felt like a mile on those dark Christmas mornings.  Growing up, we were often at my grandparents farm house for Christmas.  This meant that before dawn, we would be heading down the road to church for their annual Julotta service.  (In case you are not Swedish, this word means “Christmas before dawn”)  When I was younger, the service used to begin at 6 a.m.  Lately  Monroe Evangelical Free Church near Phillips, NE, they gather together at the still-dark-but-not-quite-so-early seven a.m.  We would sing carols and listen to a message about the meaning of Christmas.  I am sure I had moments of complaining about the early hour, but now that is such a meaningful memory for me.  I miss that tradition!

Winter Nebraska Church

A country church that was just moved on to Wessels Living History Farm near York, Nebraska.  Monroe used to have a similar look when I went there as a child!  (Now the church has grown and expanded!)

Fast forward several years to when I was a newlywed.  His family tradition was attending the late 11 pm. service.  Greeting Christmas just after midnight at church was also meaningful.  Both services involved songs and stories about a Savior.

Today our family attends a mid-afternoon Christmas Eve service.  With children, that just seems to work the best.  The church varies as members of my family attend different locations.  But the message does not.  And often all services end the same way – with a candlelight version of “Silent Night.”

Perhaps you also used to annually attend a Christmas service as a child.  Maybe you have been out of the habit.  Never too late to try again, many churches offer the hope that can only be found in the Prince of Peace.  I had originally thought about listing the locations and times of services across the state.  But with 93 counties that are filled with churches, Nebraska has thousands of service options.  Instead I just wanted to say that attending a Christmas service is what is important to my family.  Maybe this would be a good tradition for you to start as well.  While a church is not the only place to find the meaning of Christmas, most sanctuaries are a good place to start.

If you are struggling to find the true meaning of Christmas this season, this video may be encouraging to you.  Beginning with Linus sharing the Christmas message (from the best Christmas television special!), this song talks about the reason for this season.  A great reminder for all of us!

P.S. Tomorrow for “Wordless Wednesday,” I plan on featuring some of the sights of this blessed season.  Then other than some “Odyssey Through Nebraska” pre-posted Facebook links, you will not hear from again until next week.  I am ready to spend some time with my family!  (And catching up a bit on my scattered life too! 🙂  Merry Christmas!

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