Today in church (in 2011) as we sang the last verse to Away in a Manger, I was touched with God's message over the many years of people singing that song. I was a child again asking Jesus to be with me forever, remembering the sanctuary of Liberty EUB when I first sang those words. The child in all of us longs for the whole world to sing "Away in a Manger" together, feeling the love of Jesus.
In Liberty, I felt safe and secure (as in Leaning on the Everlasting Arms- "Safe and secure from all alarms") which made Christmas all the more meaningful and focused on Jesus and church. The hymns, the Christmas eve service and the Christmas Sunday service in those special years when Christmas was on Sunday allowed the message of the Savior's birth to resound. OK, if my mom, aunts or brother is reading this- we were chomping at the bit about getting presents.
Another song comes to mind on the issue of presents, "A pair of Hopalong boots and a pistol that shoots... from "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas". I do remember cap guns, a toy rifle, a puppet of Howdy Doody or similar ilk, a microscope, a chemistry set, etc. And books- I loved books. The dog books were a favorite: Call of the Wild, Lad-Son of Battle, Gray Dawn, etc. Reader's Digest Books were special since they had three or four books in one.
The children's program at church added to the experience, being one of the Three Wise Men and saying a line or two of scripture as my part in the program brought out all the parents and enhanced the message of God's love through the Baby Jesus. We Three Kings of Orient are bearing gifts we come from afar...., O Little Town of Bethlehem how still we see thee lie...., Away in a manger no crib for a bed...., you know the rest of the first verses of most of the Christmas hymns.
Silent Night is filled with meaning with the usual setting of Christmas Eve service and the added effect of candle light involving the entire congregation. I wonder how old I had to be before my parents trusted me to hold my own candle?
"Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay Close by me forever, and love me, I pray. Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care, and fit us for heaven to live with Thee there." E. U. B. Hymnal 1957 edition