Dotting the countryside of rural America you can see them; stately old churches with their steeples still proudly pointing heavenward.
Most of these rural churches were built by tight-knit immigrant farming communities of the 19th century, people who saved every penny so that a real building for worship might become reality.
We celebrated Christmas in just such a church last night. Called Salem and built in 1897, I can see its yellow brick exterior from the east side of our dairy barns.
It hosts sunrise Easter services, a summer festival, and a surprising number of weddings each year. Plus, there is the annual old-fashioned Christmas with reindeer sleigh rides followed by a service of carols, readings, the nativity, and a children’s program. There is always hot coffee and plenty of sweets, plus everyone gets a simple brown bag filled with a fresh orange or apple, peanuts in the shell, and mixed hard candy.
It’s a night where the history of this church comes alive again as people fill the pews, sing hymns, and hear the gospel just as I imagine they did when it was first built.
My husband’s family has deep roots in this place, which I’m becoming part of too. Many generations have worshiped here, married here, and been buried in the sleepy little graveyard across the gravel road.
Of course we have a home church where we regularly attend, but it’s always special when the bells ring at Salem. Especially when it’s filled with a giant, glittering tree!
Wishing you much joy and many blessings this Christmas.