On a frosty Christmas long ago a small group of Lutherans gathered in an old Baptist church set up on a shoulder of the mountains approaching the Mosquito range outside of Leadville Co. It was a small building and had the metal folding chairs that got colder the longer you sat in them. It was heated by a coal oil stove that most of the men were terrified of starting. The place was small and smelled of coal oil and mildew. It was impossible to keep clean as dust blew through cracks in the walls in the summer and snow blew inside in the winter. I was not very old but even to me it seemed small and sad and decrepit. Yet on this Christmas eve my first conscious memory of being in a Christmas eve program, the decrepit rather gross place was transformed into Bethlehem. The lighted Christmas trees, cut down by my Dad and I a few days before, the lights, the small decorated altar and even the Baptist transparent dunking pool in the front of the church seemed transferred to a different time and place. The dunking pool became the manger where a mother laid her baby and this sad venue became David’s royal town.
There were not many of us children but we shambled out into the cold, and walked around the front of the Church. Having seen the transformation, we waited for the music to start and processional music to bring us in for worship. We would lead that worship and rehearse the facts of the case of Christmas night. That God became one of us, that God was for us, that God identified with us and that no matter how small poor mangy, careless, silly or sinful we were God loved us and came to this vale of tears to make his tent among us.
Standing in front of that ramshackle church as the snow began to fall we could see below the lights of our little city. Looking in the windows, we could see the reflected lights of the trees and we could see the light reflected in the glasses of our elderly members as they prepared to sing the song some had sung in the mountains of Bavaria or the hills of Thuringia years ago before they came to this country. Even as a rather silly child it occurred to me that these old ones were once again becoming children in this place on this night, and that if reality were recited we and they would know that in the sight of God all of us are children. All of us are his beloved children and that is why he sent this Son, this child this Savior. They knew that they received the Kingdom of God as a little child and that in God’s great plan His Kingdom was a little child who came down to earth from heaven. The music started and the door opened and we marched in –
We sang “God Loves Me Dearly”
to be continued