Presentation on theme: "When I Was Young at Christmas A Moravian Christmas Eve Memory Betsy Baldwin November 27, 2007."— Presentation transcript:
When I Was Young at Christmas A Moravian Christmas Eve Memory Betsy Baldwin November 27, 2007
Outside, the December wind whips the bare branches of the maple at the end of our walk and whistles around the window panes but, inside, I delight in the warm smells of cookies baking in the oven and Russian tea simmering on the stove, in preparation for tonight’s family festivities. Pervading all is the wonderful woodsy smell of a majestic evergreen that now dominates our small living room.
Crawling beneath the ornament laden boughs of that magical bejeweled fir, I peer at our putz with its little straw-stuffed manger, the tiny mother and child, and the small shepherds who kneel adoringly, sheep by their sides. The Wise Men advance from afar, across the folds of a sheet that wraps the tree stand and serves as the holy land.
My reverie is interrupted by the announcement that it’s time to gather my coat, pull on my scratchy wool leggings, my hat and mittens, and head to our car for the quick drive to church. On the way we will swing by my Mamaw’s house to give her a ride to Christmas Eve Love Feast. On the way, I stare out the car window at the small electric candles in windows and evergreen wreaths on doors. The candles in Mamaw’s windows glow blue, not like the white ones at my house.
The strains of “Angels We Have Heard on High” float on the night air. Huddled outside the church, band members welcome us with the lovely old refrains. There are young boys, women and old men blowing trumpets and sliding their trombones in the cold night air. I scramble up the steps to the sanctuary and wave to my father as he departs for the choir loft.
Inside the church, families greet one another. I whisper excitedly to my best friend Lee. I stare at the familiar sanctuary now simply adorned with ropes of pine and cedar, lending a clean woodsy smell. Above the pulpit hangs a regal multi-pointed Advent Star like the star that signaled to the Wise Men and like the smaller one that hangs over the front stoop of my house.
“There’s a song in the air, There’s a star in the sky.” The organ plays as we find our seats. “O, Come All Ye Faithful.” We sing as the doors swing open and women in white dresses and little white lace caps enter, bearing baskets of sweet brown buns. I pull a napkin from my pocket and spread it on my lap. As the basket passes down our row, I choose one of the plumpest rolls. Eagerly anticipating the slightly sweet yeasty flavor, I caress the M stamped into the top of my bun.
Once again the doors on either side of the pulpit open and men bearing huge wooden trays filled with steaming white mugs enter. The mugs of sweet Moravian coffee, laced with milk and sugar, are passed down each row. I balance my bun on top of my mug to keep it warm. My mouth waters at the enticing aroma of coffee and bun.
“Come Lord Jesus, our guest to be and bless these gifts bestowed by Thee. Amen.” After the blessing, I take a big bite of sweet bun and sip the creamy coffee as our choir sings. “Softly the night is sleeping on Bethlehem’s peaceful hill; silent the shepherds are watching, The gentle flocks are still.” “The first Noel the Angel did say was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay.” I think of the small shepherds in our putz at home and wonder if the shepherds were afraid on that winter night in a far-away land.
As I lick the last crumb off my lips, the men return to collect our mugs. I stuff my napkin into my mug and pass it back down the pew. Once all mugs are collected, the lights dim. The ladies in white caps return with men carrying great trays of lighted beeswax candles, each candle trimmed in curly red paper at the bottom. As the congregation sings, “Silent Night, Holy Night,” candles are carefully passed down each row. I wait patiently for my candle, the glow of which warms my hands and sheds a soft light all around me. I hold it tightly and stare into the flickering flame.
“Thou Child Divine, Immanuel, welcome into they humble manger.” Thousands of tiny candle lights illuminate the cavernous sanctuary. I shiver in awe and reverence at the hauntingly beautiful refrain and the flickering candlelight.
I carefully hold my small golden beeswax candle below the frills of red paper to keep the hot wax from dripping on my fingers. “Morning Star, O, Cheering Sight.” The young boy croons; the congregation answers. The tiny twinkling lights and sweet honeyed smell of beeswax fill our dark sanctuary as the pastor asks us to hold our candles aloft to signify that Jesus came to be a light in the dark world.
“Glory to God, it rings again! Peace on earth, good will to men.” As the refrains die and the lights come on in the sanctuary, I regretfully blow out the flame of my small candle. The solemnity of the night has vanished, replaced now with animated chatter and cheerful calls to have a “Merry Christmas.” As I gather up my hat and mittens, and the small stump of a candle, I ponder the splendor and the promise of the lights that magically illuminated a dark night.
REFLECTION Moments, experienced through smell and taste, just as through sight and sound, make up the parts of a life. Pleasant and not so pleasant, recent and not so recent, memories contribute to who I was and who I have become. They all contribute in some way to my writer’s VOICE. Moments, experienced through smell and taste, just as through sight and sound, make up the parts of a life. Pleasant and not so pleasant, recent and not so recent, memories contribute to who I was and who I have become. They all contribute in some way to my writer’s VOICE.
Reflection Reflection A Love Feast bun from Dewey’s still evokes pleasant memories of snuggling against my grandmother’s rough wool coat as we passed the baskets of buns and the steaming mugs of coffee at a simple service on a winter night. The sight of the huge Moravian Star hanging above Wake Forest University Medical Center still reminds me of the old paper Advent star that hung over our front stoop. The smell of burning beeswax candles evokes nearly spiritual sensations, child-like feelings of belonging and longing. A Love Feast bun from Dewey’s still evokes pleasant memories of snuggling against my grandmother’s rough wool coat as we passed the baskets of buns and the steaming mugs of coffee at a simple service on a winter night. The sight of the huge Moravian Star hanging above Wake Forest University Medical Center still reminds me of the old paper Advent star that hung over our front stoop. The smell of burning beeswax candles evokes nearly spiritual sensations, child-like feelings of belonging and longing.
Reflection Reflection Although I am no longer the child who experienced Christmas Candle Love Feasts at Christ Moravian Church, the sights, sounds and smells of those childhood experiences still evoke a nostalgia for the simplicity and the wonder of those times. I thankfully recall a time when Advent meant a time to prepare and Christmas didn’t begin until the Love Feast candles had been held aloft.