Although I am not sure of the page number in the green LBW (Lutheran Book of Worship), I can picture my family on Christmas Eve, holding their books open to 'It Came Upon a Midnight Clear', while standing in a pew of a small, white country church called Trinity, in the very dark county, set out amongst the open, fertile farm land.
Every Christmas Eve the Melberg family would gather - My Dad, his older sister, older brother, and all of my cousins. Jan, Carol, and my mom would take turns hosting. No matter whose house we gathered at, we ate Swedish meatballs, sausage, and cheesy potatoes. Every year in the evening, we travelled the gravel road to Trinity Lutheran for Brett and my Sunday School Christmas program. Every year we sang "Away in a Manager" and my mom's voice would drift above the children's little voices, since she was helping lead us. Every year as we we departing, every child would get a brown paper bag filled with peanuts, a few chocolates, an apple, and an orange. Every year, we travelled back to the host home and opened gifts.
As we got older,and grew beyond Sunday School age, we went to Christmas Eve services at First Lutheran in town (where all the other Melberg's attend), where Uncle Loren sang in the choir.
Last year my aunt and uncle and their family went to Hawaii for Christmas, and we stayed in the metro. Until last year, I had never not been with my cousins and home for Christmas Eve. This year, we were set to return.
But it was snowing...
And the kids desperately needed a nap. You see, they have snotty noses and couldn't forgo a nap, and stay up late too...
So we let them take a condensed nap, tried to dress two toddlers quickly, and finally got all parties buckled into the car, and ON THE ROAD.
We hit the highway, and the car started shaking. Alas... after stopping and starting and checking again, it was only ice stuck in the tire well.
So then we got on one interstate, and the next.We slipped around the on ramp, and it just didn't seem safe...
We exited off....
I called my Dad to alert him we weren't coming. As I disconnected I began to cry. We changed direction to return home. I called my Aunt Jan, disconnected again, and sobbed in earnest...
And so we headed to our own church and worshipped as our family of 4 at Peace Lutheran. After, we stopped by the "Wings Joint" nearby to pick up an unconventional dinner. Their neon sign was bright - beaconing us to hot, fried food we didn't have to prepare ourselves at 5:15 pm. Next we hit the Red Box for movies. We ate, the kids opened one gift (a childhood tradition of both Mark and I), and we had a fire.
At the end of the night, I am 98% sure we would have made the journey to Jan's and back with out incident. I am equally sure Mark and I made the right decision earlier in the afternoon to stay closer to home.
When all was very quiet on Christmas Eve, after my stuffy nosed kids were sound asleep... after enjoying a warm fire.... after sipping wine with Mark...
I spent time sitting on my couch in my quiet living room, watching the snow fall gently in the middle of the great big metro area.
In my head, 'It Came Upon a Midnight Clear' was being played by Gail Grim on the pipe organ, in the middle of the dark county, in a small,white Lutheran church...
This Christmas, I am faithful.
It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold;
“Peace on the earth, good will to men,
From Heaven’s all gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.