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Blackwood: Ah, the frenzied magic that is Christmas Eve
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There is just something about Christmas Eve. The first half is pure crazy with people rushing to finish their shopping, work or whatever has to be done before the holiday.

About the time the sun goes down, you begin to feel like it’s a holiday. Stores begin to close and a quiet peacefulness sets in.

I like Christmas Eve. Even the frantic people seem to be a bit nicer. There is the occasional lunatic who just insists on driving around a mall parking lot to find a space next to the front door.

I love the excitement of children on Christmas Eve. Years ago, I used to listen in as Santa called my oldest nephews. They are now grown. The oldest has two little ones. I’m hoping that I might get to listen in when Santa calls my great-nephew and niece.

I’ve also enjoyed listening in as Santa calls my younger niece and nephew. They are 6 and 8, and Christmas is still a magic time for them.

I’ve watched the magic in my own daughter’s eyes when Santa came to visit. One year, that old rascal tracked ashes from the fireplace into the living room. That made her bright eyes even bigger.

My brother and I always talked on Christmas Eve. Sometimes he would call to see if I could get Santa on the line for his boys. His voice is the one I’d like to hear most this year, but he left us in January and is celebrating the real Christmas for the first time this year.

As kids, our housekeeper called him "Bubba" and I was "The Baby." For years, I signed his Christmas cards "Love, The Baby." I’ll probably miss that old gag the most.

I didn’t grow up in a tradition where we had a Christmas Eve church service, but have come to embrace the Christmas Eve service as my favorite of the entire year.

Everyone seems to look festive. There is a sea of red sweaters filling the congregation. Kids are fidgety and excited, and there is a relaxed happiness that fills the place.

There are folks who show up for the Christmas Eve service that you don’t see the rest of the year and that’s OK.

I continue to be amazed that my friend and pastor, Bill Coates, seems to find a new twist on the great story of Christmas. I never get tired of hearing about Mary and Joseph, the angels, the shepherds and that the only place to lay the newborn baby Jesus was in a cattle trough.

Somebody usually sings a beautiful carol. Finally, the electric lights are turned off and one candle is lit. While we sing "Silent Night," the candlelight is passed from person to person.

By the time we finish the last verse, the entire church is glowing in the orange-red glow of hundreds of candles.We sing about heavenly peace and for the first time in the hectic Christmas season, you really feel it.

However and wherever you celebrate this year, or even if you don’t celebrate at all, I hope that you might find peace, hope and joy. I hope it lasts for a long time.

Harris Blackwood is community editor of The Times. His columns appear Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 770-718-3423.

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