Once I went to tell Christmas stories at St. John’s United in Richmond. I was early, and the sanctuary was empty, but the house lights were on, and I went in. The huge tree at the front was ablaze with white lights and was decorated with the lovely white Chrismons. The church was banked with greens and I sat down about midway and just drank it all in. The stillness was more of a peace that pervaded the place, and the sense that I was not alone became overwhelming. I looked all around but saw no one. Suddenly I was transported back in time to age 13.
Mother’s voice called: “Mac, you had better wear your boots. It will be snowing by the time you are out of school!”
Sure enough, right after the lunch break, the big, soft flakes began falling, and by dismissal time, the world was all covered with a white blanket. I hurried to the locker and did not wait around to shout last minute Christmas greetings to anyone! Down the big steps to the street I flew and in a couple of minutes I was crossing the bridge at the upper end of our town! I wound my scarf over my cap, around my head and neck, and turned up the big coat collar. I was on the way to Adair where my sister taught school in the mountains.
Down the familiar path toward my elementary school I went, following the railroad track through the small town. When I passed the tennis courts and rounded that last bend in the railroad there, I knew that Adair was eight miles of wilderness away. The track ran along the side of the little stream that tumbled through the mountains. I plodded on through the silence that was broken only by the gurgling of the waters. The path was covered with unbroken snow, but that was nothing to me then. I loved it all. When the sun goes down behind the mountains in winter, darkness will soon follow. I was eager to meet Irene!
I trudged on through the snow, which was still falling, falling. Where was Irene? The snow had obliterated all landmarks. Now at that curve the road cut across the stream and there was a tiny trestle. The ties of the little bridge were covered with snow but the space between them afforded sight of the creek as it rushed and tumbled over the rocks on its way down the mountain. Here I paused to watch for a bit, to see the little whirlpools here and there, and to think of Mother, for she had often said, “Listen, Mac! the brook is singing!” as we had walked in the mountains.
While I stood there totally immersed in the silence of the snowstorm, my head spun rapidly east and west. I had a strong sense that I was NOT ALONE! My renewed walk was almost a run! I recall an inner urge to say something aloud and I murmured, “I wish I would meet Irene!” Sure enough, it was not too long until I did spy her yellow suede jacket through the swirling flakes!
I returned to the present at St. John’s and said a prayer of thanks to the One who had been very near to me as a child in the mountains, and who had given me fresh awareness of His Presence in the silent sanctuary. I looked around now and saw that it was filled with people! Never have I told the story with such joy and abandon!
It is in the deep silence that we can sense His Presence. I, therefore, welcome Him in the nighttime hours when I am awakened and find that this is the very best time to pray and commune with Him. Thank the Lord for these times of refreshing!
Now that we are in the Christmas season again, everything Is joyful and how we love to sing the carols; and it is no wonder that Silent Night, Holy Night is a favorite!
Silent Night! Holy Night! Son of God, loves pure light! Today is the 30th of November, and tomorrow is Sunday, December 1, so let’s all be merry and bright as we go through these days of advent, and let’s prepare our hearts for jolly ole St. Nicholas whose mouth is always turned up at the corners, for if you recall the story, he wanted to make all his little friends happy and so he would slip around and hide their surprises in their shoes or some other funny place and laugh to think of how surprised they would be! His heart was filled with love and he loved the Lord with all of his heart! That’s the reason he is such a jolly spirit! The Lord wants everyone to
Celebrate His Birthday with gladness and come to the manger singing!
Here I will copy the words for you to the ancient Christmas carol that I learned from Mr. Workman, who was the man-of-the-house, where Irene boarded when she taught school at Adair, WV. I spent the night with her and attended her school Christmas program, and that’s when he took his dulcimer down, tuned it and played it as he sang this beautiful song. The Cherry tree Carol, and not the one Burl Ives sang, but this is the ancient one that Mr. Workman’ s forebears learned in England, and brought it with them when they became citizens of this new land.
As Joseph went a walking, he heard an angel sing,
Tonight will be the birth time of Christ, our heavenly King,
Tonight will be the birth time of Christ, our heavenly King
He neither shall be born in housen or in hall,’
But in a lowly stable and in an oxen stall
But in a lowly stable and in an oxen stall.
He neither shall be clothed In riches or in pall,
But in the plainest linen that weareth babies all,
But in the plainest linen that weareth babies all.
As Joseph went a walking, he spied a cherry tree,
Bow down and yield your cherries to the Queen of Galilee,
Bow down and yield your cherries to the Queen of Galilee.