The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update


December 18, 2012

Jim Bailey: Christmas offers two different glimpses of Heaven this year

ANDERSON, Ind. — The Christmas season is a perfect occasion for special music. But who knew how special a guest musician would be for several youngsters.

Our church had a guest harpist on this particular Sunday morning, a girl from Anderson University by the name of Heaven Fan. She did a magnificent job of handling a complex instrument. But back to the story.

The harp was located back near the choirloft, making visibility difficult, especially for diminutive youngsters. Promptly one mother brought her young son to the front row; he scooted toward the middle where he could get a glimpse of Heaven.

Shortly after that his brother joined him. Then another girl slipped into the front row for a better look. A little later here came two more girls. The youngsters sat entranced with the strains of Christmas music coming from the large instrument onstage.

Later the kids were dismissed for their weekly Godly Play experience. But I’m convinced the experience they had already had would be hard to top.

He probably didn’t realize it at the time, but it’s a good observation that the first little boy started a fan club. Or maybe it would be more accurate in this case to call it a Fan club.

Then, less than a week later, the happiness of the season was interrupted by the unthinkable. A score of children in Newtown, Conn., about the age of those in that church service, and a half dozen adults trying to protect them were sent to the next realm by one man’s totally irrational act of violence.

Christmas is all about the children. It springs from the celebration of the birth of a child some 20-plus centuries ago. And the trappings of the season are easily assimilated by young minds captivated with holiday strains wafting from harps, mandolins, guitars, pianos and organs, with candles and tinsel and tiny lights on a dark night. And with greenery and decorated trees and mixes of red and green. With choirs and soloists telling and retelling the story of the birth of a baby in the most unlikely surroundings, whose coming was heralded by the highest and lowest of creatures.

It is a happy season. Christmas is not supposed to be a time of heartache as it will be for more than two dozen Connecticut families this year.

I expect parents will hug their children a little tighter this year as the youngsters greet Christmas morning (or Christmas Eve, according to your wont) with expectation and unwrap their presents with eagerness and glee.

But 20 children’s presents will be unopened on Christmas morning this year. And all of our understandable questions will go unanswered; there are no answers that make any sense.

But in my mind’s eye I see the 20 Newtown kids happily experiencing their first glimpse of heaven, eagerly awaiting eternal reunion with their parents in what amounts to the blink of an eye.

Jim Bailey’s column appears on Wednesday. He can be reached by email at

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