Silent Night by Melissa Darsey

This story was written many years ago. I was driving on Main looking at all the decorations. I passed the Catholic Church...people wafting out with mittens and scarfs about them. I was in the moony phase of being a part of a new church family and quickly wrote this little story as a dedication to the people I love so much. This is still one of my favorite stories to pick back up. I wrote it in one night. "Silent Night" is one of my favorite songs. This is still dedicated to the family unit I have at Northside Baptist Church. I love you guys.


Old man winter shivered across the Earth stirring up magic and snow on the tiny streets of Bethlehem. The streets of the small town glittered and winked with each kiss of a moonbeam. The town folk were all nestled and cozy dreaming dreams that only Christmas could bring. The town fairly twinkled with holly and lights wrapped snuggly around light polls, spilling from store windows, and dancing on window pains. The town, while sleeping, was not quite dead. “Ding dong, Ding dong” went the bells in the tower of St. Mary’s Catholic Church whispering to it’s patrons that Christmas Eve mass was about to begin. The carols wafted from the old church like steam from a cup of hot cocoa, sweet, delicious, and warm.

A man, bent by life, and withered by a journey fully lived, stood outside the steps of St. Mary’s, eyes closed, taking in the sweet sounds of the rejoicing congregation. “Bless them Lord, they so love you, and in turn have reminded me that I do as well. May you be so remembered in each heart this Christmas and Christmases to come.” After whispering this prayer the old man lifted his glistening eyes toward Heaven to behold the clear blanket that had unfolded before him. “What a wondrous hand that has made this magical night.” With a little sigh he turned his back toward the church and began to slowly walk down the abandoned streets. Steadied by his cane his steps were slow and sure, his soul filled up and spilled over, and the song Silent Night came slow and low from his lips. In his right hand he held his cane, and under his left arm a small wooden object set snuggly between the fabrics of his weathered coat. He was certain of his mission and would not quit until it was completed. How still and quite everything was. How beautiful and peaceful. This gentle peace must have been felt the first Christmas.

An hour swiftly past and finally the old man beheld the little church sleeping snuggly on the hill. His heart skipped a beat and his weathered pace quickened. Still wheezing the old Christmas hymn he began to climb the hill. The journey was long and hard, but he had come through a lot worse. Once at the top he turned to look at the town of Bethlehem beneath him, for you could see the expanse of the town from this spot. The old man always felt that the little church was a true reminder of the Shepherd watching his flock. For as the good Shepherd is always watching over us, so this little church watched over the town. He ascended the steps one by one, and with a little push this way and a little tug that he gently opened the door of the little church. The warmth inside wrapped around him like a blanket and he slowly stepped inside closing the door behind him.

Walking to the front of the church he sat in the front pew placing his cane and the wooden object beside him he folded his hands in prayer. With the prayer finished he picked up the small wooden object and walked to the alter, laying it ever so gently in its final resting place. He stroked the intricate face and a single tear trickled down his wrinkled cheek. Eyes lifted to Heaven he whispered one final prayer, “I love you”, and with that prayer he disappeared into the night air.

1:05am
Pastor Woods sat straight up in bed sweat trickling from his brow, chills running up and down his spine. He had struggled falling to sleep and he could not believe the blurry numbers he read on the clock. He had worked for hours to make this last Christmas Day service perfect. He and Martha had had a fight over this very fact. Yet, he struggled with the reason he had awoken so suddenly. The dream he was having was quickly being erased from his memory, and the foggy remnants didn’t seem to be anything that would have startled him out of his sleep. He looked at Martha still snug and sleeping under the covers. He brushed her cheek with his lips and whispered, “I’m sorry.” He had been on edge lately, after more than 45 years of service he was retiring from being Peace Hill Baptist’s Pastor. He knew the Lord was leading him on this path, but he was having a very hard time letting go.

He parted the covers back and slunk out of bed as quiet as a mouse. He gathered his clothes from the chair next to the bed and journeyed into the bathroom to change. Dressed and ready, he slipped past his bed and still sleeping wife and descended the steps of the home he and Martha had lived in since they were married. He took the keys from the hook on the kitchen wall and headed for the front door. A little creak rang through the house as he opened the door. He squinted and prayed that it did not wake Martha from her slumber. The chill of the night air grabbed him and a shiver ran up his back as he descended the porch steps.

Lights on and headed in reverse the old Fords heat was puffing strong and steady. He made a left turn onto Grace Street and began to climb the hill to the little church that he had preached at many a Sunday. Pulling the truck into one of the snow covered parking spaces he turned the key and the cars engine died beneath his fingertips. Opening the door, he stepped out of the truck; his eyes glistened for the church was beautiful against the frosty night. Traveling up the familiar stairs he was quickly inside the warmth and familiarity of his church.

Pastor Woods could not figure out what drove him here. “What am I looking for” he thought as he checked over every pew to see if anything was out of place. Everything was where it should be he thought, and finally decided the stress of the last few months had made him a little undone. He sat down slowly on the first pew of the church and bowed his head in prayer. As he lifted the words to Heaven and extra warmth filled his soul, warming him from the inside out. He gently opened his eyes and his hands touched his wet face. He hadn’t even realized that he had been crying. He rose to leave when his eyes caught the corner of something that was on the alter. He saw that it was a small box made out of cherry wood and beautifully carved. The etching was of a cross encircled by a heart. His hands traced the surface before lifting the lid. Inside was a letter that simply read, “All I have I give to you, Happy Birthday.”

The box not only contained the letter but an old war metal, what appeared to be wedding bands, some old coins, a piece of cloth that smelled like rose water, and a picture of a young boy. Pastor Woods flipped the picture over and read in the pale moonlight the name of Peter Sims. He repeated the name over and over in his mind. Why did it sound familiar to him? “Peter Sims”, his lips uttered the name trying to draw the knowledge that was trapped in his brain. Suddenly he remembered where he knew that name. Several weeks ago a middle aged woman had asked him to come and talk and pray with her ailing father. She said that he didn’t have much time. Pastor Woods had noticed the dark circles under her eyes, but more importantly the sadness in them. With a gentle squeeze of his hand he promised that he would be there. Peter Sims was her Father’s name.

He rushed out of the church back into his truck and fired up the engine. It wasn’t long before he saw the lights of the local hospital. He ran through the hallway and up the stairs, forget taking the elevator. His feet didn’t slow until he saw the number 214. The door was slightly ajar and he softly knocked as he opened it. His ears caught the faintest sound of what he thought was singing. He gently passed the door and saw the Sims family on their knees, holding hands, eyes closed, faces turned to Heaven, and coming from each mouth soft and low was the beautiful carol Silent Night. The daughter lifted her eyes until they met his, and she slowly loosened the grip of those next to her and rose to her feet to greet him. “Oh Pastor, Dad would be so glad that you stopped by. He talked about you often after you left that day.”

Turning toward her family, who by this time had risen to their feet she introduced each to Pastor Woods. Each greeted him with a warm and gentle smile and hello. However, Pastor Woods’ eyes kept traveling to the empty hospital bed. “Your Father, where is he”, he finally asked the daughter. “Dad passed away a few hours ago. We asked the nurses if we could stay a little while and pray. They were kind enough to let us.” “I am so sorry”, Pastor Woods said. “Don’t be, Dad lived a full life, and his death was so peaceful and gentle. It was if the angels came and scooped him up and carried him to the Savior arms.” “I know this might sound strange, but what time did you Father pass away?” Pastor Woods asked with pleading eyes. The daughter began to think for a moment and said, “I guess it was around 1:05 am Pastor, but why do you want to know?” A shiver shot through Pastor Woods’ back. “I think I felt the brush of the angels’ wings as they passed by.” “What a strange and wondrous thing to say,” she said.

Suddenly remembering something important she went to the dresser beside the bed and pulled something from it. “Dad left you this card with specific instructions that it was not to be open until Christmas Day.” With trembling hands Pastor Woods took the card from the daughter’s hand and kissed her cheek whispering, “Bless you and your family dear child.” She leaned into his ear and whispered back, “He already has dear man.” They exchanged Merry Christmases through teary eyes and Pastor Woods found it hard to walk as he left the room.

He did take the elevator this time and as he stepped outside he was not sure that his legs would hold him. He found a bench and wiped a portion of the snow from its frame. He sat down and pulled the letter out of his coat pocket. He broke the seal and pulled the small card from its package. The picture on the front was of Jesus laying in a manager and a star overhead. He slowly opened the card to discover the words it held inside. The card read:


Pastor Woods,

It was great to talk with you today. As my daughter has often told me I am old and set in my ways. I adamantly refused when she told me you were stopping by. I was not ready to let go, and the thought of seeing your face was a sure sign that the end was near.

However, when you came in I was filled with peace and comfort. Your ease and gentle manner put my soul to rest. You never talked at me, but with me. You are the true art of what a pastor should be. I loved sharing old memories with you that I felt long buried. Thank you Pastor for showing me God’s love in a real way. You helped this old man to let go.

After you left my daughter told me of your circumstances and that you were struggling with your retirement. Well, I guess we have something in common. We were both struggling with letting go of a life we weren’t through living. And this fact got me to thinking.

God gave up so much sending His Son that fateful Christmas Eve. He had to watch Him grow in love and strength and honor, and then He had to watch Him die. I lost a boy myself when he was only 7 years old, it has been more than 60 years and it still rips my heart out everyday, and I know I did not give him up freely to save someone else. I’m not even sure that I could do that. Our Father in Heaven gave up so much so that we might have eternal life.

This fact not only makes me trust Him, but makes me want to trust Him.

I say all this to say we have to live life to His will not to our own.

Trust Him Pastor, let go!

Yours,
Pete

PS Remember He gave it all one Silent Night!



Tears fell onto the card blurring the ink. Pastor Woods tucked the card safely back into his pocket, wiped the tears from his face, and rose from the bench. As he walked through the cold crisp night the sweet words of Silent Night spilled from his lips.

THE END

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