Tag Archive for: Christmas giving of a different sort

Special Gifts for the Holidays

Paula Gail Benson

the holidays, there is a lot of emphasis on gift giving. For most of us, it
means online or in store shopping and figuring out the heart’s desires of those
nearest and dearest to us.
the gifts of the holiday season are more subtle. The joy of hearing and singing
traditional music. The quiet realization that comes from a special moment while
watching a holiday program. The chance to see and reminisce with family and
year, I received a special gift while talking with my friend Margaret Davis,
who works with the children and handbell choirs at my church. Probably,
Margaret didn’t realize she was giving me anything. She just told me about a
story that had been very meaningful to her. And, for the first time, I heard
about “Why the Chimes Rang.”
Barnes and Noble Edition
In 1909, Raymond MacDonald Alden wrote the story. The
Baldwin Project (“Bringing Yesterday’s Classics to Today’s Children”) provides
an online version.
Several other versions are available through Amazon,
including a dramatized version.
The story is about a town with a large church that has
impressive Christmas chimes. Unfortunately, the chimes have not been heard for
many years. Every year, the townspeople would lay their offerings to the Christ
child on the church’s altar. They believed that when the greatest and best
offering was placed on the altar, the bells would chime.
One year, Pedro and his younger brother decided to go
to the church on Christmas Eve, to attend the service. On their way, they came
upon a poor woman who had collapsed in the cold. Pedro decided to stay with the
woman and help her keep warm until his brother could bring assistance from
the people leaving the service. He gave his brother a coin and cautioned him to
place it on the altar when no one was looking.
The brother arrives at the service and sees many gifts
being placed on the altar, including a book an author had been writing for many
years and the crown the king took from his own head. None of the gifts caused the bells
to chime. As the service was concluding, no one noticed the brother quietly
placing Pedro’s coin on the altar. Only when the chimes rang out did those
closest to the altar see the little brother creeping silently down the aisle.
Raymond MacDonald Alden was the son of author Isabella
MacDonald Alden (who wrote many Sunday School books) and Reverend Gustavus
Rossenberg Alden. Raymond became an English professor, writing books of
literary analysis. His “Why the Chimes Rang” has been compared with two similar
holiday stories, “Le Jongleur de Notre Dame” (a miracle story about a juggler
who becomes a monk and has no gift to offer the statue of the Virgin Mary
except his ability to juggle–when the other monks ridicule him, the statue
comes to life and blesses him) and “The Little Drummer Boy” (who plays his drum
as a gift for the Christ child). The Wikipedia article on Raymond MacDonald Alden provides information about his work and links to articles about the related stories.
I’m so grateful that my friend Margaret told me about
this story, for now it will become part of my holiday celebrations. It’s good to
remember in the hustle and bustle of the season that sometimes the smallest
offering can have the most significant effect.
May you all be looking forward to a wonderful holiday!

Giving Something of Ourselves

Today a new member of our church challenged us to give something of ourselves for Christmas. His proposal is that those who feel led to help put on a dinner for those at the church or in town who have no where else to go for Christmas.

Usually we give the fixings for a Christmas dinner for those who ask. We always do the same at Thanksgiving. This is something different though, this is a real commitment because not only do some of us need to cook, he suggested that there be greeters at the door, volunteers to transport people who might need a ride, someone to hand out name tags, and that we sit and visit with people we don’t know. It also means giving up Christmas day at home.

As I sat in the pew thinking about it, I realized that our family, those who actually come to the house for the gift-giving, do so on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day we have the big dinner at one o’clock, the same time as this church dinner is being proposed. So–I could cook a turkey, make a big container of dressing and another of yams and take it to the church.

Since my son’s family live next door and always come for Christmas dinner, I wasn’t sure how they would react to this–but they were sitting on the same pew and heard the same proposal. After church we went out to eat together and I said, “I think I’m going to cook a turkey and some of the trimmings for the Christmas dinner.”

My daughter-in-law said, “I think I’d like to be a part of that too. We can all go over to the church and have our dinner there. My granddaughter said, “I could do the name tags.”

This is quite an undertaking as our church is really small. This morning I bet we only had about 30 people there–some were still off somewhere for the Thanksgiving holiday. Our little town is interesting–there are lots of rich retirees and there are a lot of down and outers, many of them live in what used to be a tuberculosis hospital that’s been turned into low income housing for the elderly and handicapped. I suspect that’s where a lot of people will come from.

You know what though, I bet this will turn out to be something we’ll all love being a part of–and if it doesn’t work out like we’re hoping, well, we’ll have tried.

And that’s how the Christmas season is beginning in my neck of the woods–or should I say in the foothills of the Sierra.