My religious encounters with formal church - even after I got saved - we not very engaging. Honestly, I just couldn't understand how people could do all that stand-sit-kneel stuff and end up getting close to God? I just enjoyed my Jesus while I prayed and read the Bible. I especially liked books that were testimonies.
In the Fall of 1982 I had a radical encounter with the Holy Spirit while attending an Anglican church in Old Saybrook, CT. It was like my veins were infused with liquid God, the passion, the excitement, the presence of God - it was (and is) extraordinary. I have never been the same!
It was my first Christmas service since meeting the Holy Spirit of God in power. I was excited about church, about prayer - even the prayers in the prayer book were exciting. For the first time I felt like I understood them, the heart of the writer and the response of God. For the first time religion was not something that I was doing, not something that I belonged to, but something that consumed my spirit every moment of my life. I wanted to read the Bible, I wanted to sing my praises in the loudest voice, I wanted to raise my hand to His glory, I wanted Jesus - all of him.
I got to the church early for the service; about 10:30 pm. By 11 there was standing room only, and as the late arrival's car heads lights crossed the stained glass windows casting soft blobs of color on the white walls, the prelude began. The service progressed with hymns, then the bell choir; the sweet smell of fresh wreaths and burning candles in the air - it was Christmas. I could feel the faint cool blast of Jack Frost's fainting breath as parishioners opened the sanctuary doors. There I stood in my corduroy suit, squished in with my family in the crowded pew, We Three Kings pouring from the organ's trumpet enchamde - it was a glorious Christmas.
Unto us, a Savior was born!
I couldn't wait for the next verse, the next hymn and then there was the homily - the Christmas story and an altar call - it was all about Jesus! Finally there was joyous communion and then as we shared a hug or a handshake with our neighbor, we filed into the snow filled parking lot; the carolon clanging out silent night - the crisp snow beneath out feet.
I got home and lay awake just thinking about Jesus - what it must have been like . . .