The memories I have of a much simpler Christmas, come from the West Smyrna Baptist Church in Smyrna, NY. That’s the church I grew up in and was there until I moved to the Elkhart area when I was 20. The church is in central NY, and the area is very hilly (and not very populated).
But what made my memories so special was the Christmas program that we always had in that country church….. It would be in the evening, usually on a Sunday—but not always, because this wasn’t a concert or a program trying to bring in visitors. It was a fun ‘church family’ Christmas gathering! The decorations were simple…. many were handmade-but beautiful, and they were spread throughout the church building. I can remember one year the Christmas tree was shaped so poorly that it had to be tied up to keep it from falling over!
I don’t remember the exact order of service, but we would either have an acting-out of the “Christmas Story” by some of the children, or some years it might have been a reading from scripture of that story…… The Men’s Quartet would sing a few songs—and at least one of those songs would be really funny!
Usually an older man in the church known as “L.R.” would read a poem that he had written, and of course we sang plenty of Christmas songs! One song I think we always sang at those gatherings 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’….. well, let’s just say he could almost put that Noel through the rafters of the building!
It’s been 43 years now since I last heard Ken singing out on “The First Noel” ….. That song has always had something missing ever since.
Another thing that made it feel like family, even though there would usually be well over 100 people there, was the little time of passing out gifts! Every young child who was there received a small gift to open, and everyone received a candy cane!
Not every year, but I remember a few years when it was snowing and blowing so hard outside that the windows were rattling, and it just seemed to make the evening more special and even added to the relaxing atmosphere!
When I reflect on those days and the “Simple Country Christmas”, it seems to me that those calm, simple programs helped everyone come out and relax, and see the true message of Christmas. In Mark 6:31 Jesus told His apostles to: “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest awhile”.
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 with animals in a stable….. So right there, in the midst of the crowded town that had “no room”….. the whole world experienced the most important “Simple Country Christmas”, as Jesus began His 33 year journey to the Cross to provide Salvation to all who make the choice to believe in Him.
Merry Christmas Everyone!
Till Next Time…..