When the minister interrupted his sermon and listened to the chimes and then leaned over the pulpit and said, “It’s Christmas,” I was ready to walk through the door into heaven. It was all the joy that I could handle because now for the first time I was experiencing this pageantry as reality, as truth, as something that had really taken place.
I remember as a young boy growing up in Pittsburgh and always dreaming of a white Christmas. It was a tradition in our home to go to the Christmas Eve service every year. That service began at eleven o’clock, but we would have to assemble outside of the church at about quarter after ten because so many people congregated for that special candlelight event. It was filled with pageantry and great choral music. And at about thirteen minutes to twelve, the minister would begin his Christmas Eve homily. And just as the clock reached twelve o’clock, in the middle of his sermon, there was a signal given to the organist, and the organist would play the chimes in the church as if they were the chimes of a clock striking twelve. The pastor would stop his sermon in mid-sentence as the chimes would begin to sound one, two, three, four, and we would all sit there in the pews and count them. As soon as the twelfth tone had registered, the pastor would smile to the congregation and he would say, “It’s Christmas. And may I be the first on this day to wish you a Merry Christmas?
Well, that used to send chills up and down my spine. It was a tradition.