“No service Wednesday night,” announces Blair Settlemyre, “We’ll be going Christmas caroling as a church family instead.” I nod my agreement as I head out the door, wondering if this will be such a good idea. Nevertheless, I determine to go.
I set out from the house around 5:50 pm on Wednesday, and arrive at the church about an hour later. Upon arrival, I find the lights extinguished. The parking lot is vacant. Were we not supposed to meet at the church? I pull in and sit in my car for a few moments. Then, one of the men in the church trudges around the corner, flashlight in hand. As I exit my car, he looks rather surprised to see me there. “I guess we’re still havin’ church tonight,” he says to no one in particular, “Although I ain’t for sure.” As he continues to walk around the end of the building with his flashlight in hand, I meander to the end of the sidewalk, gazing at the snow that still covers the majority of the front lawn. Stepping over the berm at the sidewalk’s edge, I saunter through the pristine snow, feeling the bite of the cold December air as it rushes into my lungs. I look up at the clear sky, spangled with millions of stars, and marvel at the creative power of God, displayed both in the stars above my head, and the snowflakes crunching beneath my feet.
After just a few moments of quiet contemplation, I head inside, where a growing number of people are assembling, the joy of the Christmas season written on every face. Excitedly, they discuss destinations, songs to sing, and how we’re going to divide up amongst the vehicles we have. Finally, everyone arrives, and it’s time to start. After a brief word of prayer, we all head to the parking lot and our various vehicles.
After a no-show first stop, we find someone home at the second stop on our list. As the elderly man comes to the door, we launch into “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” with much gusto and enthusiasm…and slightly less tunefulness. Our breath forms a big steam-cloud as we sing, and the man at the door smiles as we sing the old songs of the Christ-child’s birth. Finishing our singing, we scurry back to our cars, the snow crackling underfoot, our breath forming streamers trailing behind us in the cold December air. We clamber back into our cars, rubbing cold ears in hopes of restoring some semblance of warmth, holding frozen fingers before the vents, shivering from our recent bout with the elements. I start the car and crank the heat fan to full bore; my fingers and ears begin to thaw as we head to the next stop.
A short time later, I’ve begun to regret bringing neither gloves nor cap. My fingers are cold, and my ears feel as though they will fall off at the slightest touch of a hand or tree branch. The man who began this adventure, Blair, trudges on happily, seemingly oblivious to the fact that anyone could actually be feeling cold.
Now my toes are starting to hurt, and my feet are complaining about bearing my weight. Not a surprise since I’ve been on them since 9:30 this morning, and it’s now 7:30.
After several more stops, I’ve begun to enjoy the feeling of crunching through the snow to make people’s night by singing the songs of the season to them. As an elderly lady from our church opens her door, we all draw a gigantic breath of the frigid air and begin to sing again. Our voices blend somewhat harmoniously, but she seems oblivious to (what seems to me to be) glaring dissonance. The truth comes home yet again that it’s not necessarily how you sing, as why you sing that makes the difference. I understand now what Dr. Spencer meant when he said that some of God’s people may not be able to sing the best, but they’re still a blessing. Watching this elderly lady sing along as we voice the wonderful lyrics of “O Come All Ye Faithful,” I can see that she’s looking past the slight discord, whether consciously or unconsciously, to the thoughtfulness of a group of people from her church giving up the sanctuary of their warm cars to brighten her lonely night with Christmas cheer.
Back in the car, as we return to the church, I ponder the love of God that caused Him to send His only Son to die on the cross for sinners that had no desire for a relationship with Him. Now that’s love! I’m grateful for saving me at a young age, and for the home in which I grew up, where I heard the Gospel from birth.
Christmas is a time when we pause and consider everything that God has given to us. We commemorate God’s ultimate gift to us by giving gifts to those we know and love, and we remember Christ’s willingness to give up His kingly throne and crown to come and die for us. Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year!