At 10:30 pm on Christmas Eve, the bells rang to call people to the midnight service at St Helen’s Church in Abingdon. The choir processed at the start and led the singing. The rector, Revd Charles Miller, led the service, and he welcomed people from St Michael’s Church. Incense was also used, which is normal at St Michael’s and less so at St Helen’s.
During the second hymn, a candle flame was passed among people. The gospel reading was about Jesus coming as the light of the world. There was some lovely singing, thanks to the choir, and Revd Miller spoke about the real meaning of Christmas and quoted a Stephen Sondheim song with the lyric ‘Take me to a world where I can be alive’ and said that is what Jesus can do for us.
The church was packed earlier in the afternoon for the Christingle service. It was fairly full at midnight, as the rest of the town was quiet, and many were asleep.
At St Helen’s, they call their Christmas Tree a Jesse Tree (The family tree of Jesus). Through advent, it is a way of journeying through the stories of Jesus’s ancestors.
The roof of the (Lady Chapel) has panels, painted about 1390, that also show the Tree of Jesse, where Prophets and Kings alternate, ending in Jesus Christ’s crucified.
Christmas and Easter are when candles are lit in each of the chandeliers in St Helens. There are hundreds to light and then extinguish.
Revd Miller was at the door afterwards to wish everybody a Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas to you.