“Christmas Eve Services” from “Remembering Eternity”

“On Christmas Eve, they took both cars to St. Dunstan’s for the candlelight ceremony that in the latter years had survived, with Easter, as the only occasions when any of the family attended church.  Heavy snow fell as they drove, transforming the earth and its accretions in the celestial fashion that it often does.  For it muffled the harsh noises of the earth-man and rounded the sharp edges he had laid down on the land.  The snow made carefree children out of careworn adults, caused self-conscious teenagers to instantly lose a decade of emotional maturity, and introduced adventure into the most prosaic of routines.  After the service they emerged from the small church, festooned with evergreenery and illuminated with the palpitant shivers of candlelight, into the wakeful, expectant, chill air of that night so tantalizing to children around the world.  They could not only see their breath in this air but blow smoke rings with it.  The women clutched at the sleeves of the men to prevent themselves from falling on the snow-covered walkways, and the men waited to reach a respectful distance from the sacred structure before initiating a snowball fight.  Keats, always a good pitcher, caught Skylar squarely in the chest, leaving an icy cloudscape impression on his London Fog trench coat.  Skylar retaliated with a hard-thrown but poorly aimed missile that flew past his ducking father and struck Elsa in the back.  Throughout the laughter-scored battle, Pearl kept warning everyone to watch their footing to avoid a fall, to protect their eyes and head, and to keep dry so that they would not catch a cold for Christmas.”