Families tend to develop traditions as to how they spend Christmas and surprisingly those ‘patterns’ can remain for quite a number of years.
Growing up in a large family, we had traditions at Christmas that many of us still talk about today. Perhaps your family has routines or traditions that repeat every year as well. But I’ll leave the details of our family Christmas a mystery for now…..
What I want to tell you about are the memories I have every year at this time, of the Christmas church service at the country church where I grew up. The church was called West Smyrna Baptist Church, in Smyrna NY. It’s still there, still open and preaching The Word, and it has the same name! Now, when some people hear New York….. they immediately think of concrete and skyscrapers. This area was in what is called “upstate” or out in the country, with lots and lots of hills—or what some would call mountains!
The special Christmas program would be in the evening, sometimes on a Sunday-but not always, because this wasn’t a concert or anything like that, but it was a fun ‘church family’ Christmas gathering….. The decorations were simple….. many were made by hand-but beautiful, and they were spread throughout the church building! One year the Christmas tree was shaped so poorly, it had to be tied-up to keep it from falling over—what an awesome memory for a country boy like me!
I don’t remember the exact order of service, but somewhere we would either have an acting-out of the “Christmas Story” by some children, or maybe some years a reading from scripture of the story.
The Men’s Quartet would usually sing a few songs, and at least one of them would be really funny, with the others serious and with beautiful harmony! Then I remember some years “L.R.” would write a poem about Christmas and read it! And of course we would always sing plenty of Christmas songs! One song we always sang at those Christmas services was “The First Noel”. There was a man in the church named Ken, who had an incredible range to his voice, and when he hit that ‘fourth Noel’ ….. he could put that thing right through the rafters of the building! It’s been 41 years since I last heard Ken singing out on “The First Noel”….. The song has always had something missing ever since…….
Another thing that made it feel like ‘family’, even though there would usually be over 100 people there, was that there was a little time of passing out presents. Every young child who was there, received a small gift to open….. and everyone got a candy cane!
Some years we had natural sound effects coming from outside, because it would be snowing and blowing so hard that you could hear the wind howling and the windows rattling—and it just seemed to make the entire evening even more special!
When I reflect on those days and the “Simple Country Christmas”, it seems like those programs helped everyone relax and enjoy the true message of Christmas. In Mark 6:31 Jesus told His apostles to: “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.”
Even though that first Christmas took place in a city, the first message of Christmas went out to the country, where in Luke 2: 8-20 the story is told about an angel of the Lord appearing among the shepherds, who were out living with the sheep! And then of course Christ was born in a small stable or barn as we might call it.
So right in the midst of all the hustle and bustle and crowds of an overflowing city….. the world experienced the most important “Simple Country Christmas“, as Jesus began His 33 year journey to the Cross to provide Salvation to all who choose to believe in Him.
Thank you Jesus….. and Happy Birthday!
Merry Christmas Everyone!
Till Next Time…..