When The Angels Sing

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Here in Ballengee it is, as the song has been sung, it is a most wonderful time of the year. Amid the unusual foot of snow that had fallen this year the streets are full of joyful souls popping in and out of stores picking out those special gifts for those special ones in their life. Earlier today I was in Lou’s Five & Dime and the store was packed. Lou had gone all out this year finding unique merchandise that folks could choose from to find that perfect gift. Lou looked happier than ever as she helped in the gift-wrap section putting that perfect gift in a perfect package. For me this is essential as I always lose the argument with wrapping paper.

I also stopped in at the Crawford Kountry Kitchen and Johnny Crawford had laid out his best holiday treats. I only had stopped to say Merry Christmas to Johnny but was captured by his Apple Walnut Cake. Macintosh Apples and Walnuts baked in a dark brown cake spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg with a dash of vanilla. The aroma filled a portion of the restaurant as I sat down to enjoy apiece larger than I should have along with a cup of hot cocoa. Johnny and I had each spent the night before walking down Maxwell Street admiring the individual displays. So while I over extended the welcome of my appetite we commented upon each amazing exhibit that every home there presented. Outside we could hear the Bottoms Gospel Choir singing Christmas carols over at the world war two memorial, bells ringing at the Grace Baptist Church and the happy sounds of people as they moved past the restaurant. Johnny and I also discussed the evening’s event, which we both were to be a part of.

Nolan Richardson from up on Eagles Perch has a handsome sleigh that can seat eight. He has offered to let us use the sleigh this year to go caroling and this is the evening that the Crawford brothers, Johnny, Willie and Bob, the Maxwell Sisters, Reba, Rose and Mary, along with Lester and Fonda from the bottoms were to go. Now everyone knows that I have a monotone voice for singing so I felt honored that I was to be a part of this musical compliment. This very morning I went up to Nolan Richardson’s farm along with two fine horses that Tommy Thompson loaned me, clip and clop, and brought the sleigh down to the feed store where I work. I spent most of the day polishing up the old sleigh and grooming the horses to their very best. It was all set then that we all would enjoy a sleigh ride down Temple Street stopping at every corner and Caroling to the neighborhood. This was the first and maybe the beginning of another great Ballengee Christmas tradition.

As the evening drew near the first to appear was a light snow. I was very satisfied with this as I thought this would provide the right romance for the whole affair. Willie came next with his banjo on his knee along with Bob and his acoustic guitar. I felt a little music would help with my superior monotone. Homer Massy dropped the Maxwell sisters off, Reba with her accordion, Rose and her Mandolin and Mary with several Carol books. Lester and Fonda came bringing some bells for the sleigh. That was a great touch what would a sleigh ride be without the jingle bells. Then Johnny came bringing each a slice of fruitcake to put us all in the spirit of the season. We packed up and climbed into the sleigh and I gave old Clip and Clop a smack with the reins and off we jolted into the evening’s adventure.

Thankfully there was not much traffic out this snowy evening and we able to maneuver around quite well. We made our way to Temple Street and swung around to head up the small incline. Along the way Bob, Willie, Reba and Rose played their instruments and of course one of the songs they played was Jingle Bells. We gathered plenty of looks filled with marvel and admiration from the folks along the streets. It felt good to be doing something different that brought joy and happiness to our family here in Ballengee.

We approached the first corner we had planned to stop and piled out there to take our position on the corner. I started to tie the sleigh to a fire hydrant but Johnny stopped me and said I should stay with the sleigh and tend to the horses. Somehow I knew there would be a plan to prevent me from sharing my voice along with the more talented company I was with. But no matter a good sleigh master I will be and I stood ready to enjoy the first act of the evening’s performance from the seven Ballengee Carolers. They started with a long musical intro to “Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem” and I was amazed at how well an acoustic guitar and mandolin, an accordion could tolerate the company of a Banjo. But they blended extremely well and produced a unique beautiful sound that attracted a crowd quickly. As folks on the street stopped to listen others came out of their homes. Some stayed on the porches while other came out to join us on the corner. “Away in the Manger” was next and folks began to quietly sing along. It was a marvelous event to witness as the snow fell from the heavens joyful spirits arose carrying away the worries of this old world.

We finished up with “Silent Night” and then loaded back into the sleigh to go to our next planned corner. As we began to leave the folks standing around the corner began to sing “God Bless Ye Merry Gentleman” and Reba responded to them with her accordion. It was a moving sight, as the crowd watched us as we moved on up Temple Street. It warmed my shivering bones as we trotted along with a true satisfaction that we had done something to Bless His Children.

By the time we reached our third corner people had already gathered and even had hot coffee waiting for us to drink. The snow was falling stronger now yet they were there not wanting to miss their turn. We sang and they sang along with us too. It was such a wonderful experience that I thought what would it be like if every night could be as this. Perhaps it is in Heaven. When we finished we wished everyone a blessed Christmas and with illuminating faces of joy they wished us a blessed Christmas as well. The whole evening was as exciting and fulfilling as this and when we had reached the end of our journey up Temple Street, in spite of the chill in our bodies, we were sad that it was over.

I turned the sleigh around and we began our journey back down Temple Street. The snow had stopped and even the clouds we beginning to thin away allowing the light of the moon to glow through. Going down Temple Street required a different technique as at times the sleigh wanted to take the lead. I learned the braking on the rig and managed to keep the sleigh behind Clip and Clop who would look back and snort at me from time to time. When we reached the area of the street that leveled out we achieved and slow gate and made for a pleasant ride in the cool air of the evening. I was getting hungry and thought how nice it would have been to plan a stop along the way for Christmas sugar cookies and hot cocoa. Soft cookies with brittle icing and little decorations on them like Grandma used to make. Oh Grandma she would spend all day over the stove making batches of Christmas cookies and then we would take them to church and share them with friends. But always there was way too much for me and I did my best to eat every one. Christmas is the resting place of so many memories and the birth of so many new ones. Like tonight for instance, our first sleigh ride while caroling.

Soon we came across a home that was dark except for one light in the front room. It was Betty Mc Cormik’s home and I felt a sadness come over me. Betty had just recently lost her partner of fifty-three years and this was her first Christmas alone. I felt how awful it must be to spend this time of the year without the one who adorned you with all provision, shared every one of life’s ups and downs and warmed you on the coldest of nights. I looked over at Rose and said do you think we should stop and sing to Miss Betty? We all agreed and we pulled up in front of Miss Betty’s house.

We gathered there in front of Miss Betty’s door and Johnny knocked. The door opened and Miss Betty stood there as a smile of joy exploded across her face. The instruments started to play and we sang ‘Oh Holy Night”, “What Child Is This” and “The First Noel”. Near tears were in Miss Betty’s eyes as she said come in, please come in as I have been waiting for you all to come. Once inside we stood round the fireplace and warmed the chill from our bones. Miss Betty came in with a tray that had eight cups of hot cocoa and a pile of Christmas Cookies. I couldn’t hold myself back.

We stood there talking and laughing and Miss Betty told of happy stories from Christmas’s past. It was awe-inspiring to see this lady stand before us and share so much of the joy and happiness found in her memory. It was good for her that she had so much and a blessing to us that she shared the blessing of her joy with us. Now the hour was late and past time for some of us to be at rest at home. So we bid Miss Betty farewell and thanked her for her hospitality. As we walked out the door she requested we sing one more carol, which we did, “Hark The Harold Angels Sing”.

I find myself now sitting in a horseless sleigh at the feed store. The hour is very late and I should be home tucked away. It has been the type of evening that I just cannot nor I want to let go. Perhaps if I hold on just a bit longer before it all falls to memory I can enjoy the reality just some more. I gaze into the night sky, which is lit with un-countless stars, and take notice of one that shines ever brighter. Could it be the star that leads me to an ancient newborn King? Or could it be a guide to a King that is yet to return for His own? And I wonder will the Angels Harold his coming, as they did not so very long ago, as we have done in His honor this night. Christmas marks the day that all hope relies upon and shows that love has graced us both for now and for those who answer for all time to come. Hark the Harold Angles sing, Glory be the new-born King. If you truly want to bless the people do as the Angels and announce the King, for He is coming.

Copyright: 2001 Thomas N Kirkpatrick

Durant Bible College

 

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