On December 24th of 2014, I had a desire to experience a Christmas Eve candlelight service. I went to a service at a community church in Clear Lake that was well attended. However, the service wasn't what I was looking for. When the service was over it was close to 9pm and most churches were completing their last Christmas Eve services.

Feeling extremely disappointed and unfulfilled I headed home, wishing to God if only I could have attended a meaningful Christmas Eve candlelight service.

Shortly after arriving home, I received a random call from a friend who recommended that I go to a church called St. John the Divine, which held a Christmas Eve candlelight service at 10pm. I had never been to an Episcopal service before and wasn’t quite sure about going, but something nudged me to just go ahead and check it out.

When I arrived and entered the sanctuary of the church, I first noticed the impressive architecture and how wonderfully decorated the church was. I was a few minutes late and there was a full congregation so space was limited to the last few rows.

As the service progressed, I could truly feel the peace of God. The music and the choir were captivating and awe-inspiring. At one point I closed my eyes and thought this must be what it sounds like in heaven. From the scripture reading, to the hymns, to the music, to the sermon by Father Clay Lein, this candlelight Christmas Eve service turned out to be more than what I was hoping for. I felt so blessed that I promised myself I would come back the next year.

When I came back the next year, I felt the peace of God again and sensed that the presence of the Holy Spirit was with this church. During the service the priest announced that there were contact cards for anyone who wanted interested in prayer or joining SJD, so I decided to fill one out.  I was contacted by Father Matt Marino and Kim Jameson, and eventually joined the young professionals ministry. Since then I have made St. John the Divine my home church and have been fortunate to be a part of a loving congregation that actively serves one another and the community.

I’ve been blessed by relationships with other SJD members, such as my mentor George Sutherland. I’ve received healing through the healing prayer ministry with JB and Ellen Mallay. Deep and contemplative mediation on God’s word through Lectio Divina was introduced to me by Meg Rice.

The last two Christmases, I was able to play the harp in the contemporary Christmas Eve service led by Zach Meeks. This fulfilled a lifelong hope of mine to honor God with music. During New Year's 2019, I toured the Holy Land with Father Matt Marino and the Young Professionals of SJD, which was an incredible, spiritual, life-changing experience. I would not have been able to go if it wasn’t for this church.

Looking back, it is clear that God brought me to that unforgettable candlelight Christmas Eve service 5 years ago, as it has led me to experiences and relationships that have changed the course of my life and strengthened my walk with Jesus Christ.

by Sosheel Saleem

We invite YOU to invite someone to experience Christmas at St. John the Divine. Our service times and descriptions are online at sjd.org/christmas. Buisiness card sized invitations are available outside the worship spaces. Pick some up and pass them around to friends and family!!