December 23rd…“DID YOUR FAMILY GO TO A SPECIAL CHURCH WORSHIP TO CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS?”
Christmas took on an almost mystical aura when cloaked in the black velvet of a snow-laden sky. From that ebony expanse above us effused a trillion flakes of snow that daintily floated down past the street lights that illuminated our Grace Evangelical United Brethren Church in Kiester, Minnesota.
The snow-chained tires of our Chevrolet came to a crunching halt against the frozen curb of drifted snow. As we popped open the four doors of that humble chariot, our family ventured into the near zero degree temperatures regaled in all our Christmas finery. Tenderly watching our steps against the ice, we were rounding the sidewalk to the east side of the church entry when I was sweetly stunned by the warm, rich coloring of the enormous stained glass window that dominated that portion of our worship center. The lighting from within the church house had set off the intricate patterns and rich colors in the leaded glass “painting” of our Lord Jesus carrying a lamb. Other families were arriving at the same time and, as we offered “Season’s Greetings” to our friends, our breath emanating from our mouths became visual gifts as it transformed into condensed vapor upon the frigid night air around us.
Our talented church organist, Mrs. Dixie Ballweber, brought an elegance to each Christmas carol that was sung by the saints in attendance that evening as candles were lit upon the Communion Table to let the congregation know that our celebration of Baby Jesus’s birth was about to begin.
The wooden chairs behind the Communion Table was known as the Choir Loft where our Children’s Choir would assemble and sing praises to the Lord for His greatest gift of all…..his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ here on this holy holiday in December. Even though our attempts at singing were shaky and munchkin-like, we strove to do the best our little voices could do on those happy nights at the church. But, even in our immaturity, one could easily see our juvenile efforts were welcomed and visually enjoyed by many a smiling parent’s face as their little ones sang God’s Christmas praises in our local church assembly of His saints.
A lasting imprint upon the mental tablet of my happy memories was the ever faithful and loving ushers in our church. Mike Iverson and Harold Kinder were a team with one goal in mind, to be ambassadors for Christ as they stood by those grand entry doors every Sunday morning and especially for this special evening Christmas occasion.
As the last “Wise Man” left the platform and after a serene version of “Silent Night” was sung, our pastor gave the last “amen” to the evening and our congregation began filing out of the worship center as you could hear “Merry Christmas” greetings being exchanged among God’s people. The church’s twin entry doors were now open to the very brisk Winter’s night as our dear ushers stood next to boxes of “Snoboy” apples that were given out as gifts to all who desired their ruby red deliciousness to enjoy on the way home. Those tender-hearted ushers, Harold and Mike, were like godly elves of Santa as they handed these apple gifts to each child walking by. Gifts, in the sense that each apple was wrapped in lovely blue crepe paper, as if getting another Christmas gift, only THIS gift was super sweet to eat and had been shipped all the way from Washington State. As my little boy voice said, “Thank you!!”, these kindly Christian men responded with a hearty, “Merrrry Christmas!!” as they saw their sweet-tasting apple disappear into the tummy of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.