I was raised in a family of modest means, but I have very happy memories of every single Christmas growing up. Mom and Dad made things nice. There were always decorations, treats, gifts, and wherever my mom is there is music.
The music in our home was Christ-exalting music year ’round with no exceptions, but at Christmas time the music was especially beautiful and sacred. Mom played LP albums by Gloria Roe, Helen Barth, and Larry Whiteford all day long until I drifted into dreamy sleep.
We would usually be in South Bend on Christmas. Christmas night Pastor Whiteford would have a Christmas Concert at Fulkerson Park Baptist Church in nearby Niles, Michigan. Niles was always in the path of beautiful lake effect snow so it was appropriately Christmas-like for the concert. The red-brick colonial church was always full on Christmas night for those concerts. Pastor Whiteford is an Irish Tenor with a powerful voice.
When I was a little boy lying in bed on December nights listening to him sing, I didn’t have any way of knowing that one day we would work together. Pastor Whiteford would later be my good friend and boss. I would be a Youth Pastor at Fulkerson. He was a delight to work with. He was very encouraging, patient and affirming. He would eventually ask me to pastor the church that he started. At the time I didn’t know that one day he would even give me his personal library including many well-marked books that had belonged to his mother.
This morning thinking back on memories of Christmas in my childhood I wished that I had a recording of Pastor Whiteford’s Christmas album. I was happy to find a site dedicated to his music ministry. Including some audio samples that brought back warm memroites.
When I think of Pastor Whiteford I find myself asking God to bless him and each member of his family for his kindness to me and I want to be the kind of leader he was. When I think back on past Christmases I find myself praying that I can bring the joy and mystery to my children that I enjoyed as a child. When I remember those December nights snug in my bed listening to carols I renew my commitment to expose my children to the most beautiful Christmas music I can find. You don’t have to be rich to do that.
December 5, 2005
Riverfront Character Inn