“The sun that brief December day rose cheerless over hills of gray,
And darkly circled gave at noon a sadder light than waning moon.”
The poet Whittier goes on to say in the midst of that snowstorm-
“So, all night long the storm roared on; the morning broke without a sun;”
“What matter how the night behaved? What matter how the north wind raved:
Blow high, blow low, not all its snow could quench our hearth-fires glow.”
How I love that poem. Some of the lines of that poem I have memorized and repeat at night when sleep evades me. I think back to my home while growing up on Morgan Street in Melrose, Massachusetts and picture the first snow fall of significance and the excitement we children felt as we coasted down the hill before our home. When the streetlights came on, we had to go home. Wet and cold and snow covered, we would enter our home and feel the warmth of those old-fashioned radiators when we placed our wet mittens on the top, our boots underneath and our coats on a chair we had moved close to that source of wondrous heat. Inside as the darkness fell early in December, you could feel that love of home and its “hearth-fire glow.” I can feel that same hearth-fires glow this evening in my study as I walk in my imagination with you.
Outside my window are deep drifts of snow from the amazing snowstorm we have just undergone a few days ago. The snow was so deep Molly, our beloved pet, just looked out the door at the white two-foot drift, turned and waited for us to shut the door. There are a few snowflakes falling this evening and soon the small fir trees outside that we covered with colored and white lights will bring warmth and glow into the darkness. There are flames aglow in the small stove in my study, and Molly is asleep beneath my feet in the cubby of my desk. In my heart, there is a love this time of year that no storm, however furious, can “quench” my inside feelings of home and love and friends.
Yes, I am very tired. In one’s eighties, sometimes even putting on a heavy jacket is a mighty task. How happy I am that I have a wife who sees me struggle and helps me put my coat up over my stooped shoulders. For so many years now, I have written letters to the couples I have married to encourage them in their love for their spouse. Each year, I have attempted to encourage a marriage of patience and love, faithfulness and understanding. This year is no different.
When Dale and I were married, I told her that in years to come our age difference would make her relationship with me more difficult. It has come to be true for now she carries the wood into our home for the fireplace. I watch her lift heavy burdens which I can no longer lift. But what I did not think of years ago was how difficult it would be for me to watch the person I love so much do what I should be doing. Oh, I seek to lift burdens from her that I can do (you already know I do the laundry now) but still it hurts inside to not be able to do those things that I once so easily did – like rolling logs for my sawmill up on a truck all by myself. Yet inside, even though we both have to do different tasks, our “heath-fires glow” is not in the least diminished, because we love each other and see ourselves as a team.
Sometimes in my walks, I picture those in my ministry that I have loved and cared for as a pastor and friend. Tonight, I think of you but also of a friend, Shirley Gulvin. I have not spoken with her for a long time, so I do not know how she is today. But Shirley had a loving partner in her husband David. They were a team like Dale and I are a team. David was my age, and we shared a wonderful friendship. Shirley and David ran the Christmas table at Four Corners Chapel in Cumberland, Rhode Island. Dale and I ran Farmer Fred’s table right beside them. Shirley lost Dave along time ago, but I know that their partnership has never been broken. Such a love is not a passing thing but an everlasting bond. That is the heart of our faith. Love is eternal and kindness and faithfulness is the Christians way of life.
So to those whom I married over the years of my ministry, may your love grow and be so strong that no mighty storm can ever separate you and take away the love you professed some years ago. May the love of Jesus Christ this Christmas bless you and your family with the blessings of an eternal “hearth-fires glow.”
Merry Christmas from this pastor and his wife Dale to all the members of the churches we have served – You are loved and missed and in our Christmas prayers.
“And now may the Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent one from the other. Amen.”
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