Old Christmas at Clay Hill: The quiet side of Christmas

Published 11:00 pm Monday, January 7, 2013

Old Christmas at Clay Hill is traditionally held on January 6 at historic Clay Hill Church in Pronto. The service celebrates the arrival of the Wise Men who traveled for two years to worship the Christ Child. David and Melanie Adams and baby Macy portrayed the Holy family. Eddie Powell, pictured, Lawrence Bowden and Don Renfroe were the Wise Men.

Old Christmas at Clay Hill is celebrated on January 6 each year at historic Clay Hill Church in rural Pike County.

It was on this night more than 2,000 years ago that the Three Wise Men came to Bethlehem to look upon the Christ Child.

“When they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother and fell down and worshipped him. And when they opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh,” from the Gospel of St. Luke.

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The Rev. Michael Lawler, pastor of Brundidge United Methodist Church, said at Old Christmas at Clay Hill services Sunday night that the Wise Men followed the Star of Bethlehem for two years before they found their way to the Christ Child.

“On this night, Old Christmas, we celebrate the arrival of the Wise Men with a special service of scriptures and songs,” Lawler told those who gathered at the 143-year-old church to celebrate the close of the 12 days of Christmas in a peaceful, quiet and meaningful way.

Nine churches were represented at the non-denominational Old Christmas service. Some were attending for the first time, others for many of the 16 years Brundidge United Methodist Church has held Old Christmas services at the historic church.

Cleone Rogers of Troy has January 6 marked on her calendar, however, there’s no need.

“I look forward to Old Christmas every year,” she said. “I get such a good feeling when I’m there. It is such a touching service. I feel closer to God in that old country church. When they lay that little baby in the manger, there is no way I can describe the feeling I have.”

Rogers said the music played on traditional instruments, the special songs and the congregational singing combine to keep Old Christmas in her heart all year long.”

Mike Amos of Troy is also a regular at Old Christmas at Clay Hill.

“I look forward to Old Christmas every year,” he said. “It is such a great atmosphere for those who love the Lord and love Christmas. It’s nostalgic. It’s Christmas at its best.”

For Mary Helms Adams, Old Christmas brings the Christmas season to a close in a meaningful, peaceful way.

“It’s the simplicity of the service,” Adams said. “So simple but so meaningful. Old Christmas is what Christmas really is.”

James Ketchum experienced Old Christmas at Clay Hill for the first time.

He said the service, in theory, seemed a bit awkward being so long after Christmas Day. “But it was uniquely meaningful and spiritual,” he said. “I had heard about Old Christmas but now that I’ve experienced it, I understand.”