By Mark Hurwitz
Rev. William Croswell served as Minister of Old North Church from 1829-40. He was not married and he did not have any family who attended the church. It’s possible that Croswell never owned a pew, but we do know he preached from our beautiful wine glass pulpit. During his lifetime, he immensely enjoyed writing. He composed nearly 35 sonnets and seventy poems before he died in 1851. A few years after leaving the Old North Church, he wrote a Christmas poem about his fond memories of Christ Church.
A CHRISTMAS EVENING PASTORAL
My own dear church, how can I choose?
But turn, in spirit, back to thee,
As on this hallowed night I lose myself in pensive revelry?
For in thy courts a single day
Tis good, if but in thought, to dwell;
Nor may I tear my heart away
From all that it has loved so well.
How sweet to hear at eventide
The peeling of thy silver chime,
In tuneful changes, far and wide,
Give note of coming Christmas time!
How richly through the wintry sky
It floats! As if the heavenly train sang, “glory be to god on high,
And peace to peaceful men!” again
While thus the vocal heavens invite,
And bells ring out in angel tone,
To Bethlehem let us haste tonight,
And see the wonders there made known.
Thy radiant courts are all ablaze,
And brilliant is the festive scene,
As when rose on the prophets gaze
Fair Canaan, dressed in living green.
The wreaths in loftiest arches tied,
The boughs in each deep window spread,
The festoons swung from side to side,
The columns twined and garland,
The leafy cross, which venturous arm
Has dared to hang the chancel o’er,
Give all the shady lodge a charm
That never met the eye before.
Thus, verdant as a sylvan tent,
Thine old age puts its greenness on;
Thy bowery aisles all redolent
With goodliest smell of Lebanon.
How fresh the branches stand, and thick!
With what a dazzling light, and clear,
Like Aaron’s golden candlestick,
Gleams out each ancient chandelier!
And he who looks above the crowd
May almost see, in vision, swim
Beneath the cornice, veiled in cloud,
The mystic shapes of cherubim;
Now listening to the grateful strain,
Each in his angle seems to rest,
With twain unfolded wings, and twain
Spread crosswise on his raptured breast.
And now a joyous echo rings,
And seems the whole angelic row,
That o’er the rood-loft poise their wings,
Their loud, uplifted trumps to blow;
And quivering now through wavy trees,
And throbbing breasts, (with thrilling sound of
Solemn pastoral symphonies,)
A glory truly shines around;
It shines on robes without alloy,
On priestly vestment, pure and white,
And on the shepherd’s head whose joy
It is to watch his flock by night.
Its brightest shines where hearts once cold
Are kindling with the truth revealed,
And, like the faithful swains of old,
Beneath their gladdening influence yield.
Thrice blest, who thus the night prolong,
Who soar on each inspiring tune,
And emulate the shining throng
That pass away to Heaven too soon!
Thrice blest, who, as the years roll by,
More fondly treasure up the word,
And god their savior glorify
For all that they have seen and heard!
Though many a friend is dead and gone,
Though many a sainted face we miss,
Long may thy tuneful peal ring on,
That calls, dear church, to feasts like this!
For whence could joy and comfort flow
To aching hearts that bleed for them,
But for his grace, whose reign below
Began this night in Bethlehem?