Silent Night


  The little white church was even brighter and whiter under a moonlit starry night and an icy coat of frost that sparkled like diamond dust. A soft fog was feeling its way down the mountain, and it was bringing with it a harder chill to the valley floor.
The gathering inside the church was large. It was Christmas, and so the pews swelled with the regulars and the two-timers -- folks who attended at Christmas and Easter. It never bothered Pastor Jud to see the two-timers come. They made the collection plates a bit heavier, and their voices filled the little church with carols, hymns and hallelujahs.

As folks settled in and the murmurs softened to silence, Pastor Jud stood and stepped to the pulpit. Having grown up in this little place, he always felt a bit of a lump in his throat as he began this service each year. This is where Pastor Roy had stood and boomed out his sermons of warning, and love, and salvation, and sacrifice, and service and sin. This is where he watched as a young man in seminary when the Elder Deacon prayed the final funeral prayer for Pastor Roy. Ashes to ashes. Dust to Dust. Into thy hands, o Lord, we commend this spirit. And then they asked him if he could stay for a minute after the service.

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“Judson”, the second deacon began, “ we know of your plans to enter the ministry down in the city, and we are pleased for you, of course. But we find ourselves at a place here in our little church…..your little church….where we are in need of an interim pastor. Just for a little while,” he added. “You are the most qualified among us, and we’d be paying you what we could, but mostly, we’re just not equipped for holding church and preaching, and you are. Could you help us, Judson? Just ‘til we can find a real preacher?” They stood in a circle and waited. Jud briefly envisioned his big plans, big dreams, big church.

Then his visions vanished, and Jud said yes.

And so, on this bright and calm and holy night, he nodded to his wife and his three children in the front row. They smiled at him as he lifted his arms to the ceiling and he began to speak to his congregation for the thirty-ninth consecutive year on this, his favorite night of the year. “Let us pray,” he said, and he prayed for them all to sleep that night in heavenly peace. He silently added his secret prayer that they would not find a real preacher again this year.

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