A Christmas Miracle

No. 6

It was December 22, 1986.  The church had been beautifully decorated in anticipation of the Christmas Eve service, by far the most anticipated worship service of the church year.  All was in readiness.

But catastrophe was about to strike.  Fire officials said that it was probably from an improperly extinguished candle on the communion table that the fire began.  Whatever the cause, the fire was raging inside our sanctuary before anyone noticed.  By the time the fire department arrived, the interior of the sanctuary was gutted.  The fire was hot enough that it even burned through the concrete floor in the chancel and into the fellowship hall beneath.  Months of restoration work were ahead of the church before its building would be useable again.

When I walked into the sanctuary on on the morning of December 23, after the fire was out, it was as if I had received a blow.  The bright, beautiful worship space that I knew, where our daughters had been baptized, where we had worshipped weekly for more than fifteen years, was bleak and oppressive.  The ceiling and walls were black with soot.  The communion table, hand-crafted as a memorial to our former minister, Spencer Adamson, was completely gone.  Candles on the organ console, one hundred feet away from the source of the fire, were melted and the console itself damaged, as were some of the organ pipes.

In the midst of all of the destruction and ugliness, however, two living Christmas trees, each only a few feet from the source of the fire, still stood in all their greenery, unscorched, and with the paper doves of peace which each of us had placed on the trees, still unscathed.

Was this a miracle?  Well, it depends on what you mean by “miracle”.  If you mean that God suspended the natural laws of uncontrolled fire in order to preserve these symbols of peace and hope, I would have to say, “no”.  Any competent engineer could undoubtedly explain why the fire moved outward and downard instead of sideways, and why the uneven pattern of destruction was as it was.

If you mean, however, that the sight of the preserved trees created a sense of awe, and that the sense of awe gave new meaning to the promise of Christmas, then, yes, I agree, it was a miracle, the same miracle which saw a baby triumph over the King Herods of this world.  The trees were a forceful reminder that our faith, our message and our task were not destroyed by the fire, but reinforced and focussed on what really matters in this season.