Seeing the kettle workers for the Salvation Army begin their vigil around town, I was reminded of a time I stood kettles many years ago.
Around here, we think of frosty air, snow at least on the mountain tops, and a freshness as we go about our Christmas shopping. I was in training school for the Salvation Army in Southern California. When we stood kettles, we wore the old-fashioned bonnets and high-collar woolen uniforms.
It was probably 70-plus degrees out, and I was dropped off in front of a Wal-Mart-type store in a poorer section of town. Very few people were entering and leaving. I was pretty much alone, facing an empty parking lot. All around the front of the store were trash, dirt and cigarette butts. To say the least, it was depressing to think I would be standing there for the better part of the day.
I stood there unenthusiastically ringing my little bell. After a few minutes of feeling sorry for myself for not getting to stand at a Macy's or someplace with a little more dignity, I remembered the Scriptures that said God inhabits the praises of His people: In all things give thanks, for this is the will of God concerning you.
So I determined that I would do my part. Singing would never be a skill listed on my resumé, but I began to sing Christmas carols in a muffled voice - "Away in a Manger," "Silent Night," and before I finished all of the verses I knew of "Silent Night," way across the parking lot came someone dragging a cart with a pine tree on it. I thought to myself, that's neat. Someone is buying their Christmas tree.
That began to cheer me up. I kept singing as he got closer and closer to the entrance. He nodded to me, without saying a word, and dropped off the tree at the entrance. Well, over the next half-hour or so, he brought about a dozen more trees, about half of which were flocked with snow.
By the time he finished, I was standing in the midst of a most beautiful forest of cut pine trees. I learned it wasn't where we get placed, but what wonders Jesus can do with that place, and we get the pleasure of watching it unfold.
Merry Christmas, and thank you, bell ringers, for helping bring to mind the memory.