by Kenny Rader
Abram Christmas, yes, a unique name for sure, immigrated from Great Britain to the New World in the early 1600s and settled near the Atlantic Ocean in the area we know today as Maine. Why there? Well, it was relatively a virgin region; one of the least populated; and since Abram Christmas liked the wilderness along with the rugged seashore, he and his young bride, Abigail, settled in what was to become the town called Christmas.
The shoreline close to Abram and Abigail was rugged and dangerous, but that’s what added to the beauty of living close to the ocean. They built their house high on a cliff near the coast, yet back far enough to provide a safe play area for their soon-toarrive family, which eventually ended up as three boys and three girls.
The natural environment provided food aplenty. The forest afforded a constant supply of meat from moose and caribou, plus cottontail rabbits were plentiful. The ocean provided their supply of fresh fish, which were available by following a narrow trail that began about a quarter mile to the south of their house, leading to the rocky beach below.
The woods also supplied their need for warm clothing as Abram was skillful at hunting and trapping fur-bearing animals. With Abigail’s large garden and Abram’s ability in the woods, the family had everything they needed. Each morning, noon, and evening, the Christmas family thanked God for their bountiful blessings.
Those early years were rough on the young, growing family, but they weathered the harsh winters, the often- brutal storms, not to mention an occasional nor’easter. Their house took the abuse quite well, and with each repair the Christmases made to their home, it grew more and more sturdy until it eventually withstood most anything the weather threw at it.
The most demanding problem the family encountered in living near the shoreline was the ships that occasionally wrecked at the foot of their rugged paradise. Helping rescue the weary travelers and welcoming them into the Christmas’ home became a routine event. These travelers began settling on or near the high cliff, and soon the little town of Christmas was born.
Abram Christmas came to realize the hazards of the rugged shore, so he proposed that he and his new growing community build a lighthouse to warn ships from catastrophe. The men quickly agreed upon the idea, and they went to work in constructing what was to become known as the Christmas Lighthouse.
Although crude in many ways, it was beautiful and became the pride of the little Christmas community. It was the most prominent structure in town, and on a clear day, sailors at sea could see the Christmas lighthouse from far away, and even farther on a moonless night with its bright beaming light. Soon, all the captains from across the ocean knew of the Christmas Lighthouse, and it began saving lives as storm after storm pounded the coast. No ships wrecked on the rocky shores for years.
Eventually, the people of the community agreed that the Christmas Lighthouse could use some improvements and they began adding structural enhancements around it. A fence and a gate gave it a homey feel. They planted a few bushes and a couple of trees. Later, as the holy season of Christmas approached, the community decided their Christmas Lighthouse should have some seasonal ornaments, so against the advice of Abram Christmas, the community began adding homemade ornamental decorations to the lighthouse, both inside and out.
The decorating began earlier every year and became more and more ornamental. Someone even discovered that they could add lanterns to the outer structure. Abram Christmas made a brave attempt to stop the nonsense as he reminded them the function the lighthouse served.
“This lighthouse is to protect the people of the sea from disaster, not become the center of the village’s Christmas season,” he told the people at a town meeting. But it was no use as the little community no longer worried about the essential need of the lighthouse.
“We haven’t had a shipwreck in almost two decades,” the people argued. “Decorating the lighthouse gives it another purpose since it is aging and becoming an eyesore.”
Abram, his adult sons, and sons-in- law argued, but they were drowned out by the people of the community.
Decorating the lighthouse began more aggressively.
Year after year passed and Christmas seasons came and went as the little lighthouse eventually went through a vast renovation. But in that makeover, the community added more ways to decorate and hang lanterns on its outer structure. The lighthouse had become so much of the center of town activity, that the community constructed another building close by to house the annual community Christmas festival plus other seasonal events throughout the year. This entire festive atmosphere concerned Abram Christmas, but he no longer had a voice in the growing village. He expressed great concern that sooner or later, disaster would strike.
It happened late one night in December, only two days before the holy day of Christmas on the twenty- fifth. The evening started calm and peaceful. The lanterns were all lit around the Christmas lighthouse when the wind suddenly picked up and turned into a horrible gale. A couple of the lanterns broke loose from their hangers, and a flame ignited as lantern fuel ran down the side of the wooden lighthouse. Within seconds, a large flame enveloped around the base of the structure. Fanned by the gale-force winds, the fire intensified and the lightkeeper, Bernard Christmas, Abram’s middle son, had no time to escape. His only way out was ablaze, and within minutes the entire lighthouse was engulfed as flames shot high into the sky. An hour later, the Christmas lighthouse was a pile of ashes. The winds that blew had fanned the flame so intense that the men easily found the charred remains of Bernard Christmas. The community gathered at Abram and Abigail Christmas’ home and mourned.
The night wasn’t over, however. As the lighthouse lay in a pile of ashes, and with the death of Bernard Christmas, everyone forgot about the need and purpose of the lighthouse with the storm still gaining intensity. About three in the morning, out in the Atlantic, the North Star ship was in trouble. She tried to set anchor, but the winds and waves prevented any kind of stability. She was tossed back and forth as waves broke over the deck, and timbers creaked and began cracking under the strain.
Captain William Andersen knew of the Christmas Lighthouse and strained his eyes to see the light, but since it had burned to the ground, and without a clear sky, he had no idea how close to the shore his ship had drifted. He feared for the ship. He feared for his crew, and he feared for his passengers. They were all in grave danger. Captain Anderson prayed for daylight.
Just as the sky began to light up at dawn, Captain Andersen saw their impending doom. The high cliffs and rocky shoreline became visible, and he knew he could not avoid the rocks. He alerted the crew and passengers, but it was too late. The ship struck the first boulders about one-hundred-and-fifty yards out in the ocean, and the winds pinned the ship against them as the waves now pounded the weakening vessel relentlessly. She began breaking apart.
Passengers fell into the frigid water. Some jumped with a barrel to keep them afloat. The storm was merciless to everyone, but especially to the children as mothers and fathers tried to help their young sons and daughters. The waves pounded so mercilessly that families became separated within seconds of hitting the ocean.
It was slaughter by sea. All 117 people on board perished. No one survived.
It was mid-morning before the little community of Christmas began venturing outdoors to feed animals and do chores. No one had slept, or if they did, they only caught restless naps. They had lost their lighthouse and one of their most prominent community members. They were overwhelmed and distraught, but they were oblivious of a worse tragedy on the shore far below.
The gale-force winds continued until late into the afternoon but finally subsided. People went out to look at the remains of the Christmas Lighthouse. They rummaged through the remains, picking up pieces of memories. It surprised them how some flammable pieces escaped with little damage, while other items were warped and melted because of the intense heat. Still, as they picked through the rubble, no one looked over the cliff to see what lay below. Their eyes, minds, and hearts were too fixated on their loss.
It wasn’t until the sky began to dim that Cliff Beranger looked down at the sea. At first, he had difficulty focusing his eyes. He stood and tried to center his eyes and his mind as he looked at the shoreline, but then he looked out into the sea. He saw the remains of the North Star, still stuck against the massive rocks as the waves attempted to complete their job of washing her into the sea.
Now, Cliff looked back to the shore below and he knew what he had failed to realize only seconds earlier. He saw the bodies of the ship’s passengers and crew strewn everywhere. He called out the alarm, and everyone scrambled down the narrow path to the shore to look for and help survivors, but there were none. Everyone had perished.
The death of Bernard Christmas was bad enough, but now, as they began picking up bodies and carrying them up the cliff, they realized the final result of the night before. The next several days were mind-numbing for the entire community. There was no Holy Day Christmas celebration for the village that year.
Slowly, the community began looking backward at what had brought about that horrible night. They had built the Christmas lighthouse over two decades earlier to save lives. That’s what the lighthouse was for: saving lives. But the community began looking for other uses of the lighthouse. They began decorating it, simply at first, but then more elaborately until they lost sight of the lighthouse’s purpose. They forgot the main reason the lighthouse stood on the cliff, and they began focusing on their selfish desires to decorate it; finally, elaborately with lanterns. Those dreaded lanterns, full of fire and fuel, eventually brought about the Christmas lighthouse’s demise. They had lost focus of the true meaning of the Christmas Lighthouse.
The community built a new lighthouse that next summer, but that new one stands only with one purpose: to send a beacon of light to save lives. The village of Christmas swore that they would no longer allow themselves to become distracted from the lighthouse’s one purpose. Lighthouses are to save lives. The Christmas Lighthouse was to save lives. The community learned that distractions from the real meaning of the Christmas Lighthouse only brought about disaster. They finally realized that distractions often result in disasters. The Christmas Lighthouse stood for one purpose and only one purpose. The Christmas lighthouse was built to save lives.
Love you, God Bless, & Merry Christmas