Faith Works 12-11-10
A View From the Steeple
Teetering out along the gable end, he took each shuffling step a little bit more carefully. Each movement was half as far and twice as hesistant as the last.
This can't continue indefinitely, he thought with a touch of amusement.
Finally both feet were perched in the spot where he had ended up every year for more decades than he cared to recall, lifting the string of lights over the nail he had pounded in place as a much younger man.
They had been those big bulbs. with the paint making the different colors slowly flaking off, then smaller ones, just as bright, with colored plastic shells, then narrow tiny bulbs, and now these LED lights. Saved energy, or so they said.
Didn't look quite right, he felt, but he also remembered that his grandmother hadn't liked electric bulbs at all. "We had candles on our tree, lit 'em just for Christmas Eve, looked like God's own tree that way in the glow of the flames, just like the burning bush," she said.
There had been some discussion when the church first started putting lights up on the steeple. A few old-timers felt it was too worldy, just a little tacky to have colored lights on the house of the Lord. Now he was an old-timer, but he was still crawling out the hatch, behind the tower, through the attic roof, to get to the steeple.
A couple of pastors back, one had told him that one of the symbolisms of a steeple was that "parallel lines intersect in eternity, so a pointed steeple hints to us of the ultimate destiny of us all.' That had stuck with him. In many ways, a church steeple gets you closer to God.
Right now, the goal was to not suddenly find yourself going in the opposite direction. He reached, and at the very furthest extension of his arm, the line of Christmas lights hooked over the last nail along the gable.
The hardest task done, he looked up and down the street below. Each streetlight had an ornament affixed just below the lamp itself, a star or lantern or holly leaf in outline. In between the posts, houses stood both decorated and unornamented.
After this many years, he knew which house was whose, and he had some idea about why certain homes had no lights or decoration, and why others were almost excessively so. Marriages in trouble, happy homes, widows who turned aside all assistance, mothers whose sons and daughters were happy to help and then some. There was one house where he knew it was time to go by and knock, and offer again. There'd be a "no, I'm fine" at first, but if he sat down in the front room, and drank some tepid coffee, ate some cookies, he'd probably be able to get her to let him put out her lighted deer and a few strands of multicolored lights over the bushes.
Or get permission to send his grandson over to do it, he smiled to himself.
Up here, all looked tidy and squared away. Down at street level, along the sidewalks, the house numbers and backyards told a different story, but there weren't any tales that couldn't find their way to a happy ending with a little help. That's what a church was for, you know.
It was nice to look around the area from up here, but cold aside, it was time to come down, to go along door to door and talk face to face. As the snow started to fall, the view was lovely, but you couldn't stay.
Slowly, but steadily, he inched back along the peak to the hatch, and the warm glow of the single bulb in the attic below. Time to work back down the ladders, into the sanctuary, and lock up behind him, going out into the streets to talk to his neighbors.
That was the real view of Christmastime, he thought. At the door, in the house, under the tree. But it sure looks nice from up here.
Sooner or later, though, you have to come down.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio. Tell him about your unique viewpoint on Christmastime at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Knapsack @Twitter.com.