Stepping through the doors of the country church was like stepping back in time. Aside from the large cedar tree that was hung with homemade decorations and the old time wreaths that adorned the clear windows, the little clapboard church outside was just as it had always been — plain and simple. And that is exactly what I needed.
Shiloh Methodist Church was founded back in the 1830’s, and was the center of a rural community outside Troy, NC, for many generations. Lots of singing, shouting and praying took place in that one room sanctuary over the years until it closed in 1928.
For many years, it stayed closed as former members, and later, their descendants, came to
attend the graves in the cemetery or perform some minor repairs on the church. Fortunately,
that changed in 1986. Since then, the little brown church comes to life once a year for a simple celebration of Christmas. On the first Saturday of December, the Shiloh community opens the sanctuary for a Christmas tea and Holy Communion, scheduled for four services in the afternoon.
Kay and I were invited by some friends to attend the late 4 o’clock tea on a cool and cloudy after- noon. As we walked up to the church, we were offered cookies and hot Russian tea. Once inside, we took a seat on a plain, wooden, and not so comfortable pew that was well over a hundred years old. Before long, the sanctuary filled with people as a stringed trio provided music of the season. Soon we moved to the altar to be served communion by a local minister.
It was beautiful, and so meaningful in its simplicity. And a good way, too, I thought, to begin the season of Advent and Christmas. Beauty and simplicity; that is something I find myself craving each year at this time. How about you?
Honestly, I would much rather avoid the busyness and rush and crowds, if I can. Instead, I am looking to the times of worship, seeing the delight and excitement of children in preschool, being with family, and once again, celebrating the story of Jesus’ birth. It, too, is a simple story, but with such profound meaning for us.
Indeed, it is the heart of the Gospel — “For God so loved the world” that He gave His only Son
that we might be saved from our sin and given eternal life. Dear brothers and sisters, isn’t that
why we celebrate Christmas?
In the love of Christ,