This post is part of a series on the history of Peace Presbyterian Church as part of our month-long Centennial Celebration. Visit our Stories from the Past blog page or learn more about Celebration Sunday on October 6th.
The year was 1952 in Flint, Michigan. A mother woke up her 12 year old daughter. The girl groggily stirred, unwilling to climb out of her warm bed into the chilly air that had seeped through the thin walls overnight.
“Get up, sweetie. Today is a big day.”
The girl darted awake, suddenly remembering. It was Christmas Eve. She’d been looking forward to this day for weeks.
Her day started with breakfast, but continued with chores. Everything needed to be cleaned for the company they would host later that night. Her task was to dust the house. Her brother was sent outside to shovel the snow that had fallen overnight. Their mother was at work in the kitchen, cooking Wurst (German sausage) for their guests.
As she dusted, she tried to remember the verses she’d be reciting at church in just a few hours. Her class had memorized Luke 2:8-14, about the angels appearing to the shepherds as they announced to Jesus Christ’s birth. She thought of her friend Charlie, who always said that the shepherds were ‘washing their socks’ at night, and she giggled.
After supper, it was time for her and her family to walk to church. She put on her new dress and bundled up in her coat, scarf, and hat. The church building was only three blocks away, but the air was cold, even for December.
This church—First Reformed Church—was founded by her grandparents, along with some others. They had come from Russia before she was born and found jobs working in factories in Flint. She didn’t know what ‘Reformed’ meant; she just knew that she wasn’t Catholic or Baptist. Of course, none of that mattered to her then. She just knew that she loved going to church on Christmas Eve.
Her family arrived with plenty of time to spare, but the church was crowded anyway. Her uncle and some other men had put chairs in the aisle, expecting the building to be packed full.
As she sat through the program, she fidgeted with her chair. Other classes read verses or sang songs together. When their time came, her class recited their passage perfectly (if not a little loudly). Even Charlie said it right.
The service ended as it always did, with the church singing the old German hymn Stille Nacht (Silent Night) by candlelight. As they filed out into the gently falling snow, the pastor handed her, and all the other kids, a bag full of candy and an orange. Outside, a snowball flew past her head. She didn’t have to look to know who had thrown it.
It was almost past her bedtime, but that didn’t matter on Christmas Eve. Her whole family—aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents—were coming over for dinner. She ate her orange after her sausage; both tastes together tasted weird in her mouth. That was easily fixed by eating some more candy.
After they ate, her dad sent her to bed, but she could still hear her family laughing and telling stories as she drifted off to sleep.
Christmas morning and all its excitement would come before she knew it, but when it was over she looked forward once again to the next Christmas Eve.