I live in a storybook town.
Picture a classic Main Street, lined on both sides by decorated storefronts on the ground floor of two- and three-story brick buildings. It’s a bustling area, with local businesses flourishing alongside well known national chains.
The square is actually a roundabout. In the center is a Civil War soldier’s statue atop a tall column, on a lawn with a cannon in each corner. The soldier faces South (of course) looking into the top floor of the historic courthouse across the street.
The community rallied to save the historic theater, which is now a state-of-the-art venue for both movies and live performances. The post office is across from the county archives, and there are five active churches in a five block radius. Church bells peal out the quarter hour regularly during the waking hours.
Yes, I live in a storybook town. This is never more apparent than at this time of the year. Classic street lights line the avenues and sidewalks, decorated with lights and banners. The Christmas tree lighting in the square involves school choirs and town officials. Businesses decorate every corner of their buildings in celebration of the holidays.
One area is called Five Points because of the many roads that intersect there. On one corner is a building that houses a local accounting firm on the second floor, and a bustling Starbucks shop at the street level.
For years, at Christmas time, the building owners have raised letters that are stored laying flat on the rooftop during the rest of the year. Long ago there was a building in nearby Nashville called the Noel (pronounced “no-uhl,” rhyming with Joel) Hotel.
After that business met its demise, the letters were salvaged to be used for a different purpose. When they are raised and lit this time of the year, we pronounce them “no-ell” (rhyming with go tell) and consider them a traditional symbol of this wonderful time of the year.
Strings of streetlights, even stoplights, blink a bright red and green, as the shoppers rush home with their treasures.
Even at this busy time, this sight – seen here through a rainy car windshield on a traffic-filled winter’s night – this sight brings a feeling of peace and good will.
And in the quiet of a Christmas eve night, as we walk away from the last church service at midnight, the sign reminds us of the true gift we celebrate at this time of year. High in the night sky, for all who choose to see, and rejoice.