Children's Christmas Programs

The other Sunday at church, the youth were in charge of the service. It’s called the “Hanging of the Greens,” and the older kids read parts explaining things such as Christmas trees, chrismons, wreaths, and candles. At one point, the youngest children were ushered in to sing a couple of songs. Some were dressed in wise men costumes. The youngest wore white outfits and had silver wings. They reminded me of Christmas programs at church when I was a little person.

Most of the church programs at Beaver Ridge Methodist Church, where I attended back then, included a choir loft filled with children. Mrs. Kirkland was a member who took on the duties of teaching us children the songs to be sung. Each Sunday morning in the late fall, we sat in a group and sang songs before attending our individual classes. During those early years, singing is so much fun. Kids that age aren’t self-conscious; they belt out songs with all the excitement and energy in their beings.

As the Christmas season drew closer, Mrs. Kirkland demanded that rehearsals be held after school on a couple of occasions. Most of the group already knew the songs that were to be preformed. The concern was over how children would react when they had to sing in the choir loft in front of a church filled with adoring parents and others. Practicing the singing only made sure that we got everything right.
Most people don’t aren’t so sure that I can sing a note, but back in the day, I had a good enough voice to be given a solo on occasion. One year, my brother Jim, Mike Guinn, and I sang “We Three Kings.” We stood in front of the church and were scared stiff; somehow we managed to get through that song without passing out or making mistakes.

Another year, those in charge decided to put on a play. “The Littlest Angel” included a plot and songs. Jim was chosen to play the part of the littlest angel. Folks who know Jim find it hard to believe that he could pull off a convincing performance in that role, but he did.

Those Christmas programs were always fun. They signaled the beginning of the season to us, and Santa always made an appearance to pass out gifts at the end of the program. Each member of the choir wore a cape that Mother had sewn. I’ll bet the number was well over thirty, but each child’s cape was identical, and we all looked like those kids on Christmas cards who are singing at the altar.

A new song or two might have been introduced each year, but the ones that meant the most were familiar Christmas carols. “Silent Night,” “Away in a Manger,” and O Little Town of Bethlehem” never sound as sweet or magical or reverent as when they’re sung by a group of little children. All of those traditional songs have stuck with children as they have gone through life. The oldest member of a congregation can let lose and sing them and never worry a minute whether or not his or her efforts will fall in discord on others’ ears.

When the service ended the other Sunday, I found Cindy Pearman, who directed the little ones as they sang. I gave her a hug and thanked her for making that Sunday a special one. Cindy and others worked tirelessly to teach children the wondrous songs of Christmas. I’d like to have the opportunity to say a thank you to Mrs. Kirkland, Mother, and the other women from my childhood for doing the same. I suppose the good lord will have to pass the message along to them for me.

I hope everyone takes a few minutes to sing those Christmas carols that bring back wonderful memories of life and Christmas.

Christmas Changes

Christmas has changed a lot in the last couple of years. Amy’s mom doesn’t travel as well since she began dialysis three times a week. Dallas is in Chattanooga, and although he is with us on Christmas, it’s easy to see his squirming and desire to get back home to his life. Who can blame him? Our daughter Lacey and son-in-law Nick now have a son, Madden, and it’s a sure bet that before long, they’ll spend Christmas at home in Nashville instead of traveling to Knoxville and Huntsville, the two cities where parents live. When I think about it, changes during the holiday season have come about for years.

The first serious change in our Christmas came in 1965. Daddy died in August of that year. All of us were in a fog as we tried to get through a rough situation. Jim and I got new bikes, and although we were appreciative, the gifts in no way filled the void that was left. Mother cooked another huge meal that fed extended family, but the day would have been better if Jim, Dal, Mother, and I had spent the day by ourselves.

A year later, Dal was dating Brenda, his future wife. Jim and I didn’t take to her at first. She was a stranger intruding in our Christmas. Dal spent all of his time with Brenda, and we were jealous. As the years passed, Brenda became an important part of our lives and member of our family, and Christmases would have been bluer without her. A few years later, Jim married his Brenda, and I was jealous of him. Another change came, and I felt left out.

In 1974, Amy and I were married on December 20. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t home for the holidays. We spent Christmas Eve with Amy’s family and hit the floor early Christmas morning to make the one hundred mile drive home. I admit my mood was surly, and I doubted this plan would ever catch on.

In 1976 Jim’s son was born, and our Christmas took a different spin. As he grew older and got toys from Santa, Brandon expected us to play with him. Amy and I got him several toy percussion instruments one year. He passed them out, and we all marched through the house playing drums, cymbals, triangles, and other things that made plenty of noise.

Lacey and Mindy both came along in 1981, and Dallas was born in 1985. The house was filled with kids and noise and toys. We still made the trip to Cookeville for the first three years that Lacey was around. Then Amy told her parents that they’d need to come to Knoxville. So, they came, and brought Amy’s uncle and aunt with them. It was an adjustment having so many people in the house for Christmas Eve, Christmas, and the day after, but before long Christmas didn’t seem right without our Cookeville family. Being home with my brothers and their wives, Mother, and kids made for a good holiday.

For the second year now, we are back in Cookeville. Our Christmas Day is spent there. Lacey, Nick, and Dallas make the trip, and we share the special time. We all miss home and Jim’s family. Mother and Dal have passed, and Brenda stays in Nashville with her brood. New places and fewer loved ones change the holiday.

Madden will soon know what’s going on for Christmas. Then things will change again. I can see us making the trip to Nashville that day to watch the first grandchild open his presents. The whole Christmas routine will have come full circle. It will be Amy and I making the trips to our children’s homes, and that’s the way it should be. The change will eventually become the norm.