December 24, 1955. At 11:15 PM my parents and I got into our old GMC half ton and drove into town and through it to the little white Anglican church on the north side. I was driving, even though I was only thirteen, almost fourteen. An RCMP constable attended this church, too, but he carefully ignored what was happening, no doubt aware of my father’s declining eyesight.
We parked on the street and walked up the steps into the church, leaving our coats and boots in the cloakroom. The pews soon filled up. A few seconds before 11:30 we heard the familiar jingling of keys as Mrs. Rutherford came in and walked up to the second pew from the front. She was the local notary public, insurance and real estate agent; the key ring and her impeccably timed last minute arrival were testimonials of how busy she was with important matters. The service began with a familiar old carol, Christine Kennedy pumping out the melody on the organ and the rest of us singing along rather weakly. Except for Alf Soper, the one real singer in the building, his powerful deep voice made itself heard above all the others.
We soon needed to turn down the kneelers fastened to the bottom of the pew in front of us. Services with the Book of Common Prayer were not spectator events. The congregation would kneel, sit and stand at different times as we went through the service, repeating in unison the congregational responses and other readings. Tonight being a communion service we recited the Nicene Creed. Before we moved to Craik we had not been church going people, there being no suitable church anywhere near where we had previously lived. Now, as the service progressed, all was so familiar that I had no need to hold a prayer book in my hands.
December 24, 1988. The youth of the church, our daughter among them, began to pile into our house around 11:15. We were living in Ontario now and members of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite. The youth had split into two groups and had spent hours carolling for the old, the sick, the lonely. Now they were ready to warm up and unwind. We served prodigious amounts of pizza, pop and other goodies, listened to their happy chatter and felt that perhaps we had been a useful part of their experience.
Christmas, 1995. We were in Montréal now and our little congregation had dinner together, sharing the traditional foods of people of many backgrounds. I can’t name everything, but there was Italian, Guatemalan, Portuguese and Haitian food, in addition to more familiar fare. André Gauvreau, who had spent most of his working life as a professional cook, provided the Québecois specialties: tourtières and a bûche de Noël.
Christmas 2012. We are back in Saskatchewan, for almost 15 years now. We will spend a quiet Christmas day, then get together with our children and grandchildren the following day. Yesterday we were part of a group that went into Saskatoon to hold a service in the chapel of one of the hospitals. One husky young man attended in a wheel chair, he tore the tendons in both knees, had surgery to repair the tendons and is now in rehab therapy to get back on his feet and walking.
We are celebrating the birth of Jesus the Saviour, the very beginning of the accomplishment of the salvation so long foretold by the prophets. I’m not sure I know yet what is the best way to go about celebrating such a wondrous event, but it seems to me that the happiest times that I remember are the times when I have been the least motivated by selfishness.
Joyeux Noël à tout le monde!
May you all have a joyous Christmas!