For as long as I could remember, attending midnight Mass at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church has been my favorite Christmas tradition.
In my family, Christmas Eve is an easy, calm day with little to do except prepare for the birth of Jesus. It’s joyous, relaxing and celebratory. During the day, my mom and I would run any last minute errands, cook and visit with family or friends, and at night, we would watch holiday movies and drink hot chocolate near a lit tree and nativity. Soon it was time to get ready for church.
I’m not sure why it’s so memorable. Maybe it was dressing up, or the garland and poinsettias, or seeing the congregation, the regulars, those home for the holidays and guests. Maybe it was the traditional hymns or the candlelight service, or that we were together for the same shared experience.
This year, for the first time since I can remember, I won’t be home for Christmas. I will be attending service at an Episcopal cathedral in Omaha, but it won’t be the same.
St. Stephen’s is a traditional Anglo-Catholic church downtown Newton. It’s the oldest functioning church in Jasper County (first service, April 19, 1874) and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s beautiful, simple.
For anyone who wants to experiences a traditional Christmas Eve service, I recommend going to St. Stephen’s for the 11 p.m. service. Music starts at 10:30 p.m. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never been or haven’t been in a while, it’s open for you.
Thank you to all at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church for your love and joy. I’ll be thinking of you all this glorious weekend, and I extend a special thank you to the Rev. Karen Crawford, the Rev. Merle Smith, the Rev. Frederick Kramer and every person who gives their time and hearts through vestry service, past, present and future.
Also, warm wishes this holiday to dear friends at Park Centre, Willowbrook, The Centre for Arts and Artists, The Salvation Army, Newton Parks and Rec, Skiff Medical Center, Hy-Vee, Newton Community Schools, and of course, the best family at Newton Daily News, who work hard to proudly keep you in the know. The city is blessed to be in the company of these bright and dedicated journalists. Merry Christmas to all.