As I was remembering my Christmases while growing up, one especially stood out. Christmases were always a fond time with family, friends, church services, good food, decorations, fellowship, and, of course, presents. Unlike today, the tree was not put up until the last week before Christmas.
We lived in Warrenton, Virginia, and the Christmas Eve I have never forgotten came after a deep snowfall. My father asked me if I would like to take a late-night walk with him to our Baptist church. We lived in town, and the walk there was about three-quarters of a mile up and down hills.
With our warm clothes and boots on, we walked down the center of the streets because the sidewalks were too deep with snow. The streetlights were twinkling through snow covered trees, and some lights were on in homes. We did not talk much because of the beauty all around us. The snow, darkness, lights, and stillness were unforgettable.
You wondered just what people were doing with lights on so late. You thought of Jesus’ birth, how people who did not believe might have felt on Christmas, and many other imagined things.
When we arrived at the church, my father, who was a deacon there, unlocked the door and in we went to a cold, dark and lonely church. Up to the belfry we went, and at midnight, we rang the bells twelve times. The loneliness passed, and the church now seemed a special, happy place.
Back to our home we went—feeling as though it had been a special outing. I wonder if ringing the bells ever happens today.
–Anne Howard, Resident