December 14th………….“AT GRACE EVANGELICAL UNITED BRETHREN CHURCH, IN KIESTER, MINNESOTA, DID YOUR FAMILY ENJOY A SPECIAL CHRISTMASTIME WORSHIP EXPERIENCE? WAS IT DURING THE DAYTIME? OR AT NIGHT”???
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, multi-laced flakes of snow that daintily floated down past the street lights that illuminated our family’s church-house of Grace Evangelical United Brethren Church in Kiester, Minnesota
On that Christmastime evening, the snow-chained tires of our family’s Chevrolet came to a crunching halt against the frozen curb that was drifted over by the latest snowfall.
As we popped open the four doors of that humble chariot, our family ventured into the below freezing temperatures regaled in all our Christmas finery. Tenderly watching our steps, upon the icy sidewalks below us, we gingerly walked along the northside of the church.
Upon rounding the bend of the sidewalk to the east side of our church entry, I was sweetly stunned by the vibrantly warm and rich coloring of the enormous stained glass window that dominated that portion of our worship center building. Since most of our family times at church were in the daylight, the nighttime view of this intricate glass craftsmanship was mesmerizing as its colors were brought to a vivid life of its own from the lighting inside our church. As a little boy, I was always held in awe of the intricate patterns of this leaded-glass “painting” of our Lord Jesus carrying a lamb.
A mutual merry magnetism drew the punctual arrival of both townfolk and local farm families to the front of our church entry as numerous other vehicle headlights were shutting down as families were exiting their cars. The happy “chinka-klink” of winter boot-buckle sounds went right along with the frost-imbued air of our breath as we wished everyone a “MERRY CHRISTMAS”!!! before stepping inside our church’s narthex to remove our winter coats and boots.
As our family entered and settled into a pew, we enjoyed the elegant Christmas hymns of “Silent Night” and other carols being played to perfection by our talented organist, Mrs. Dixie Ballweber. Dixie was one of many who lent their gifts to make this Christmas moment a memorable one for all.
Robed candle lighters made their way down center aisle to the communion table while holding their long, brightly-lit candle lighting sticks, with the bent-end bell “snuffer”, to bring the glow of more Christmas cheer to this pleasant occasion and signal to the congregation that the Yuletide ceremonies were about to begin.
It was my turn, on that happy evening, to leave our parent’s side, in the pew, and make my way to the back of the church to put on my choir robe and step into and up upon the choir loft with the other children of our church to do our part in singing God’s praises for His greatest gift of all……….celebrating the birth of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, here on this holy day in December.
Even though our Children’s Choir attempts at singing were shaky and Munchkin-like, we strove to do the best our little voices could do on those happy Christmas performance nights at the church. Even in our immaturity, one could see our juvelile efforts were welcomed and visually enjoyed by many a smiling adult face as parents, grandparents and townfolk welcomed their progeny’s contribution to the evening here in the local assembling of His saints.
A lasting imprint upon the mental tablet of my little boy happy memories was the ever-faithful and loving men who served as ushers there in our church. Mr. Mike Iverson and Harold Kinder were an amazing team with one goal in mind, to be ambassadors for Christ as they weekly stood by those grand double entry doors of our church every Sunday morning and especially for this special evening Christmas occasion!
As the last “Wise Man” stepped off the church stage and after the congregation sang a serene version of “Silent Night”, our pastor gave us all his blessings and with a final “Amen”, we Yuletide saints began filing out of the worship center and fellowshipping together as pew aisles merged to the center and towards the church’s entrance.
The church’s twin entry doors were now swung open wide to the very brisk winter’s night as our two beloved ushers, one on each side of the doorframe, stood next to big boxes of delicious, ruby-red “Snoboy” apples that were given out as tasty gifts to the entire congregation as they were heading for their homes.
Those tender-hearted church ushers, Harold and Mike, were like godly elves of Santa as they handed these apple gifts to old and young alike. Gifts, in a sense, in that each yummy apple was individually wrapped in a blue crepe paper. And this gift was extra-special in that it was not only sweet to eat, but had come all the way from Washington State to our little town for us to enjoy. As my little boy voice said, “Thank you so much”!!!, these kindly, Christian men responded with a hearty, “MERRRRRY CHRISTMAS”!!! as they saw their tasty apple disappear into the tummy of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.