This year marks my 71st Christmas. Of course, I don’t remember the first one since I was only a month old, but World War II was still raging on two fronts. However, I have many memories of most of the ones following, but these five stand out:
Each year the church I attended built a “stable” on the lawn of the church and enlisted adults and young people alike to dress to portray Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the three wisemen. Often it was freezing cold for the half-hour we stood motionless as cars passed by slowly to view the scene with its background music. Some years we even had real animals--and one year a sheep decided he’d had enough and took off down the street. Appropriately, the shepherds jumped the hay bales and took off in hot pursuit, leaving the rest of us struggling to maintain the solemnity of the scene!
In junior high school, I loved being part of the school choir, especially at Christmas. Dressed in our poufy net-layered “formals” (suits and ties for the boys), we presented a concert for a large audience of family and friends. No need to worry about what we sang--secular and sacred songs abounded, and the PC Police didn’t trouble us.
I also sang in the church choir and loved participating in the annual “cantata”. The walls, already hung with the traditional green wreaths, reverberated with the sound of praise and, often, our favorite director’s violin. Later I played John W. Peterson’s Night of Miracles for a church I attended as an adult. Though I had a page-turner and a piano light, I memorized huge pieces of the music for fear a page wouldn’t get turned quickly enough--and had nightmares about the light going out!
Santa Claus Arrives by Helicopter
Santa Claus always arrived for a pre-visit in early December. Climbing out of a helicopter which landed on the roof of our local newspaper building, he threw candy to the throngs of children gathered below.
Bands and Bell-Ringers
The busy downtown streets of my hometown abounded with Salvation Army bands, singers, and bell-ringers, encouraging us to put what we could into their red kettles. I loved taking my hoarded allowance to shop independently, even from an early age, in the bustling stores. Downtown was gone by the time my boys came along, but they took their money and lists and made selections in K-Mart. (Now, of course, the police and CPS would descend on an unaccompanied minor, and Christmas would be over before it even began and perhaps forever.)
The Songs of the Season
Many pieces of the sheet music which comes out of the piano bench in December bears my maiden name and dates such as 1957! It’s tattered, but my fingers can still find their way through the notes. And the old Christmas Carols, once heard everywhere during this season, can still be heard in my home. I’ve always loved the final verse of O Little Town of Bethlehem.
O Holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin
And enter in,
Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
Their great glad tidings tell.
O come to us--
Abide with us--
Our Lord, Emmanuel!
May you have a blessed season of love, joy, and peace,
and may we move closer to Peace on Earth in 2016.
The Word Place will be on vacation until December 28.