This Time of Year
The air is crisp, fresh, and the leaves cover the ground. The colors of our brief autumn fade to winterís brown as winter awakens from its yearlong hibernation. The north wind is moderate and blows the smells of the industrial plants out towards the south. I love this time of year. The skies are endless and blue. Many don jackets and sweaters, but I thrive on the nip in the air. It awakens me and rejuvenates my tired and restless mind.
Hints of excitement fill the air as the holidays approach. The schools close and children feel the joys of freedom. The rigid schedule of rising at 5 a.m. to dress and board a bus for school is quickly stashed into their subconscious mind. What makes the season so special? I remember a time when people were community and opened their hearts to one another. This was a time when people would open their hearts to the less fortunate. Businesses and organizations would provide food baskets for the poor. Words cannot adequately describe the feeling one gets in presenting a family the gift of sustenance. Their faces displaying the gratitude in smiles and tears.
As a child, the holidays meant something else to me. This was the time of year the church came alive. Thanksgiving came and the congregation shared a community meal, which signified the beginning of the Christmas season. On a cool crisp night, the members of the church would charge the sanctuary with vigor. A huge live tree would stand near the pulpit. It was though a swarm of bees flew in and surrounded that tree. White lights soon adorned its green branches. The Chrismon ornaments added splendor. Garland and candles adorned the sanctuary. The old church creaked and came alive as the heat warmed the cypress structure. The stain glassed windows glowed beautifully and each panel had symbols and people from the bible. I stood outside and watched smiling because I knew the events. The old sanctuary that stands by the historic civil war fort was alive with the joys of the season.
It seemed as though everyone were more alive, friendlier, and more helpful. Activities were abundant throughout the season. Hayrides of the traditional sense were not part of our area. There are no horse drawn sleighs with the jingling bells, but there was the pickup truck and gooseneck trailer lined with bales of hay. The youth group and a few brave parents who chaperoned would climb abroad and we set out to go caroling through town. After our voices were hoarse and our noses red, we would retreat to someoneís home for music, cider and smores.
Each church service from then until Christmas meant something special. The lighting of the advent candles one at a time over the next four weeks signaled that it was almost time to celebrate the birth of Christ once again. Finally, Christmas Eve arrived. This was quite an event for the children of the church. The large fellowship hall was decorated, music playing, and sweets and punch lined the serving windows from the adjoining kitchen. It was no mystery what the excitement was all about. As time went by the volume of the children laughing and playing increased until it was that time. The time that Santa would come to visit. It was something to watch as each small child was called by name to receive his/her gift. While this was fun for all it then was time for candle light services.
The one event that I always treasured was candlelight service on Christmas Eve. It seemed so different so inspiring to be there singing the carols and hearing the words of Christís coming. The words that signified his sacrifice so that we could live and know that there were forgiveness and salvation. The Sunday school classes always performed the nativity scene. I loved candlelight service so much that I would leave the church and attend midnight mass at the huge Catholic Cathedral. The magnificent statues of Mary and Jesus were bathed in light. A quartet from the local school plays Christmas hymns. The soulful sounds of French horns and other instruments fill the air. As a musician, this made my heart swell and that feeling of perfection in music brings a tear. It is like no other feeling. It is that feeling of perfect harmony that sends a chill down your spine and makes goose bumps appear on your arms.
Finally, after midnight mass we would go out to breakfast. As I got older my dates used to think I was joking when I asked them out for Christmas Eve and took them to church. Afterwards they thanked me. That is what Christmas meant to me.
†Courage is the price that life exacts
for granting peace with yourself.
[This message has been edited by startin_fresh (edited 12-10-1999).]