It was the night before Christmas, when up at the church,
the preacher had arrived for a midnight search.
In his office among all the books and the notes,
he’d stashed his old sermons in some small plastic totes.
Christmas Sunday was tomorrow, it was almost here,
and the preacher was taken by that preacherly fear…
That he had no sermon for that Christmas Day,
that he had no words, and nothing special to say.
So he’d gone to the church in the middle of the night
despite the dark and the risk of frostbite,
to find and old story that he’d written a few years before…
It was about Silent Night during the First World War.
But he just couldn’t find it, in all of his files.
It wasn’t in his computer or in his office stockpiles.
Defeated and tired he looked at the clock; what would he do?
He had no sermon, and it was half past two.
And so, disappointed he sat down, in his brown leather chair,
and he bowed his head to say a desperate prayer.
But the church was dark, and it was warm and quite cozy,
and before he knew it, he was feeling a bit dozy.
As sometimes happens, when we last resort to pray,
we happen to fall asleep and wake up the next day.
And thus away he went into Never Never Land,
and lost several more hours in a way he hadn’t planned.
When he finally woke up and regained his sense,
he discovered that Sunday service was about to commence…
Everything seemed normal; the lights were all on, and all was in place.
So he just rose from his chair, and put on his best poker-face.
Then he took a look around, and he surveyed the room.
It was no longer dark and shrouded like a tomb.
It was full of brightness; it was calm and serene.
Annette and Carson had swept up the dust, and made it all clean.
There was the hand sanitizer placed by the foyer with care—
since the Spring of 2020 it was the same bottle that had been there.
The children had gone with Karlie and Kloe down the stairs,
to learn about Jesus, and to say their prayers.
Ben Jackson was there nestled, all snug in his pew,
after arriving at church early, to make good use of the loo.
But something was still missing, something was still wrong—
the thing that had made the Preacher, pry himself out of bed hours before dawn…
He had no sermon, so what would he say?
This was no ordinary service, this was on Christmas Day!
Well, Doctor Nicholas and the Wheats could tell with one look,
that the Preacher was sweating when he opened the good book.
The Nepotes, and Lunsfords, the Natale’s, and Sandy, and Alicia too,
the preacher looked at them and wondered, if they could tell… if they knew…
And what about all the others? He glanced all around,
but he was only humbled by all the smiles he found.
Mary Kay and Sarah were right where they always sat.
Vicki and Julia – across the aisle from where the Engle’s used to sit beside Pat.
At the piano was one of five people – (I didn’t know when I wrote this story)
if it was gonna be Grant, Terri, Carmen, Judy, or Lori.
Roseann was all ready to call out the first song,
as Jerry once did for the congregation to sing along.
George was smiling, with a twinkle in his eye,
I think he knew what was up, but he was too kind to ask why.
The Harpolds were there, in the second row on the right…
wondering if the Preacher was feeling alright.
They said hello, and they smiled as they usually did,
just like Karen, and the Cox’s, and Carson the kid.
Michael, Angie, and the Dickeys were all there in their pew,
as patient and faithful as Farmer Shew.
And back in the back like Ebenezer’s Stone,
sat Mr. Chet – sometimes with Kailynn, but never alone.
There was the Jukes’, and Ginni, and Jalen too,
and let’s not forget little Sylvie, the Christmas pooh.
But where was Jordan? He’d been here before…
we all missed him and his track suit of soft red velour.
But we also missed others, like old Jim Trout,
and some that were still with us, but they were out and about.
Where had they gone, what had taken them away?
Well, I don’t really know, but maybe we’ll see them again on Easter Sunday.
But, even though some were gone, new ones had come along—
little ones that to our Lord belong; they are weak, but he is strong!
There was the Methenys, and the Kelleys, and the Overpecks, and their brood—
who always came prepared with toys, and with food.
The Preacher was thankful for all of the people,
because to really have church you didn’t need a building or a steeple.
They had the main things – faith, hope, and love.
And they were thankful for all of their blessings from above.
But the time had arrived for the preacher to speak,
and with no message to give, he hung his head low, and was feeling quite bleak…
Then all of the sudden, from out in the parking lot, there arose such a clatter
that he sprang from the pulpit to see what was the matter!
Away to the window… (he didn’t fly, let’s be honest) he went slow…
This Preacher moves like a tortoise, as by now you all know.
But the sun was shining, and there was a sheen of fallen snow,
that gave the gloss of mid-day to the tombstones below.
When, what to his wondering ears did he hear?
It was Farmer Seth arriving on a brand new John-Deere!
He rushed to his pew, so lively and quick,
and right behind him, through the door came the 3rd Domenic.
But they weren’t the only ones arriving at church
causing Rhonda, and Brenda to jump aside with a lurch.
‘Here they come!’ Yelled Sue Weber, as she chuckled and smiled
at the little ones who ran up the stairs fast and wild.
Up out of the basement, like reindeer they came,
as Tim and Lori whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
Now, Cadence. Now, Leila. Now, Raegan. Now, Norah and Avery,
Tate, Jack, George, Henry, Hazel and Maizee…
But, in all the excitement, the Preacher had almost forgot
that he had no message… or so he thought…
And that’s when, without warning, he woke up and he found
that he had slipped out of his chair, and was lying on the ground.
The whole thing was a dream, thank the Lord for his mercy,
he had just fallen asleep and there was no need for controversy!
So, he picked himself up, and walked to the door,
but before he left, he looked back, and he thought once more…
How it made him feel dreary, and it made him feel bad,
but it was true; without people – this building could be really sad.
And more than that, it could sometimes be really scary—
in the dark, with the shadows, and the old cemetery.
It was the people who made this, into a place that was bright.
And without them here, even with lamps, there would be no light.
For the Lord to be here, it takes only a few.
That’s what he said, in the 18th Chapter of Matthew.
That was the message that this preacher would stress
when Christmas morning arrived in a few hours or less.
That Christ is with us, when we gather together, and invoke his name.
And it’s the Spirit that ignites, within us, a flame.
Whether it’s Christmas, or Easter, or Halloween,
or any of the other days that fall in between…
The Lord has come, he has died, he has risen again—
And all the host of heaven, has declared AMEN!
And this is the message we have all heard the same:
If we walk in His light, we are cleansed from our shame.
But if we ignore him, and decide to walk elsewhere,
The day will come; we’ll wake up, but we’ll be inside a nightmare.
And so that was the message, he’d preach on Christmas morn—
The story of Christ’s death, not just when he was born.
Then the Preacher went home, and he wrote it all down…
And he got up the next morning and he drove out of town.
He went back to the Church on that Christmas Day,
and his sermon had everything, he wanted to say.
Now, that sermon, was not the story I tell.
That message came from a much deeper well.
This poem is nothing much more than a tribute,
and I beg your pardon as I attempt to distribute…
But that is the story of just one Christmas, up on this hill.
There were many before, and there may be many still, if the Lord tarries, and if, it be His will.
You can also listen to this poem on Soundcloud: