Friday, December 19, 2014

Why the Chimes Rang by Raymond MacDonald Alden

(With permission, I have edited this famous Christmas Story that was written by our church member’s father - who has the same name, so I can easily read it as a Children’s Sermon on Christmas Eve.)

         There was once, in a far away country, a wonderful church. It stood high on a hill in the middle of a great city. On Sundays and on special days like Christmas Eve, 1000’s of people would climb the hill to go to this beautiful church.
         When you entered the church there was a grand entrance with marble pillars. The room was so long you could scarcely see the other end where the choir sang by the altar. In the farthest corner was a huge organ that was so loud the people in the village below could hear it playing.
But the strangest thing about the whole church was the wonderful chime of bells.
         At one corner of the church was a tall gray tower. The tower rose way up in to the sky and it was so tall the clouds would sometimes cover the top of it. Up and up the tower went high into the sky. And at the top of the tower was a chime of Christmas bells. They had been hung when the church was built and were known as the most beautiful bells in the whole world. They had the clearest and purest sound one had ever heard from chimes when they rang. Some said they sounded like angels far up in the sky.
         But the sad part was….no one had heard the chimes ring for many many years. There was an old man living near the church who said his mother had spoken of hearing them when she was a little girl. And that was the last time the Christmas chimes had rung.
         They were Christmas chimes, you see, and were not meant to be played on common days.
         It was the custom on Chrimas eve for all the people to bring to the church their offerings to the Christ-child; and when the greatest and best offering was laid on the altar, the Christmas chimes would sing with joy far up in the tower.
         But for many long years they have never been heard….
It was said that the people had grown less carful about their gifts to the church for the Christ-child. No offering was brought that was special enough to deserve the music of the chimes to play.
         Every Christmas eve the rich people crowded up to the altar and each one tried to bring a better gift than the other, hoping it was special enough for the chimes to ring. And many people would crowd into the church on Christmas Eve hoping to hear the chimes ring. But although the worship service was beautiful, the choir music was lovely, and the offerings were generous, only winds could be heard far up in the tall stone tower. 
     Now a few miles from the city there was a country village where they could just catch glimpses of the top of the great tower when the clouds parted. In that village, lived a boy named Pedro and his little brother, Peter.
         They had heard about the Christmas eve service but didn’t know about the Christmas chimes. The boys made a secret plan to venture out by themselves to go see the great church and be a part of the beautiful church service.
         Pedro said, “Nobody can believe, little brother, that all the fine things there are to see and hear in that church! And I have even heard it said that the Christ-child sometimes comes down to bless the service! What if we could go see him!”
         So off they went on that day before Christmas. It happened to be bitterly cold, snowflakes were flying in the air and the snow was frozen hard and slippery on the ground. 
         Pedro and Little Brother trudged hand in hand until they saw the lights on the big church. They got so excited staring at the lights when they walked when suddenly they tripped over something dark in the snow. They stepped aside and found a poor woman who had fallen down. She was too sick and weak to get up and find shelter. The soft snow made a drift of snow like a pillow under her head and soon she would be sound asleep, freezing in the winter air.
         Pedro understood in a moment that he must not let her sleep and tried to carry her to a shelter. But he couldn’t get her up. It’s no use, little brother, you will have to go on alone and get us some help.”
         “Alone?” cried little brother, “And you will not get to see the Christmas Eve service?”
         “No, I can’t go….See this poor woman? I must stay and try to care for her. But when you come back you can bring some one to help her. I will keep her from freezing.”
         “Both of us need not miss the service,” Pedro said, “and you can find your way to the church now. Follow the lights and watch the service for both of us….Let the Christ-child know how much we love him. Take this little silver piece of mine up to the altar and lay it down for our offering when no one is looking.”
         So the little brother ran off to the church, slipping and sliding and crying as he went without Pedro. But the great church was so bright and wonderful when he got there! When the organ played and thousands of people sang, he could feel the earth tremble around him. He joined in the singing and praying, thinking about Pedro and the sick woman the whole time.
         At the close of the service there was a procession of offerings to be laid on the altar. Rich men marched proudly up with their gifts for the Christ-child. Some brought jewels, and baskets of gold. A great writer laid a book that he had been writing for years. And the last was the king of the country, hoping to make the Christmas bells chime by taking from his head his royal crown set with precious stones. He laid it gleaming on the altar as his offering to the Holy Child.
         “Surely,” the crowd of people murmured, “we shall hear the bells now, for nothing such as this has been laid on the altar before!”
         But only the sound of the cold wind blew out from the tall tower. The people began to doubt that the story of the Christmas chimes was true. They decided nothing could make them ring.
         When the procession ended and the choir began their last hymn, Suddenly the organist stopped playing as though he had been shot! Everyone looked at the old minister who was standing by the altar silencing everyone. Shhhhhh! He hushed the crowd.
         Not a sound could be heard except a soft swinging sound in the air. Then the sound of the chimes in the tower got louder and louder! The bells were so clear and pure and sweet and the notes were rising and falling away up in the sky blessing them with the most beautiful music ever heard.
         Suddenly the crowd of people remembered and turned to look at the altar to see what great gift had finally awakened the bells. But all they saw was the Little Brother, who had crept slowly down the aisle when no one was looking and had quietly laid Pedro’s little piece of silver on the altar….

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