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Trinity Lutheran's holiday celebration spreads warmth of season

The entire congregation at Trinity Lutheran Church is lit by candles during Sunday night's Candles and Carols service. Photo by - Brian Basham1 / 5
Rachel Wentz helps light a candle during the service. Photo by - Brian Basham2 / 5
Trinity Lutheran Church is lit by candlelight. Photo by - Brian Basham3 / 5
Attendees hold their candles up during the service. Photo by - Brian Basham4 / 5
The Trinity Lutheran Church choir sings in front of the church's altar during Sunday's Candles and Carols service. Photo by - Brian Basham5 / 5

The story of the first Christmas, told in song and spoken verse, interspersed with instrumental tunes from bell choirs, woodwinds and strings -- and all lit by the warm glow of candlelight.

Trinity Lutheran Church's 10th annual "Candles & Carols" was a joyous evening of song and celebration, attended by over 300 lakes area residents of all ages.

In between the carols and biblical recitations, a trio of actors brought to life "The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey," as the narrator (Mike Stearns and Steve Morben) told the warm-hearted story of a widower, embittered by loss, who rediscovers the joy of love and giving during the holiday season.

Toomey (Rich Ziegler), the widower, had been nicknamed "Mr. Gloomy" by the townsfolk due to his less-than-genial ways. A talented woodcarver, he was approached one day by a young widow, Mrs. McDowell (Jenny Hagen) and her son Thomas (Korey Hanson) about carving some new figurines for their Nativity scene, as the old ones had been lost.

Hoping to learn the craft of woodcarving from a master, the young Thomas approaches Toomey about watching him carve the figures for their new Nativity, and Toomey acquiesces.

Each time, his mother brings some baked goods for Toomey to enjoy, and sits quietly knitting while the man carves, occasionally interrupted by commentary from Thomas about how he thinks the figures should look.

As the holiday approaches, Toomey never tells the widow or her son that the figures will be finished by Christmas morning, but that they "will be finished when they are finished" -- yet works long into the night, even after the widow and her son have gone home for the evening.

He painstakingly tries to adhere to Thomas's descriptions of how the figures will look, finally falling asleep over his work.

Finally, on Christmas morning, Toomey visits the widow with the finished figures carefully packed into a box. As he unpacks them and places them in the Nativity, the widow invites Toomey to join her and her son in attending the holiday church service -- which he does, as love begins to fill his heart anew.

Though not fully lit by candles for the entire evening, the celebration did include a couple of intervals where each member of the congregation held aloft their small, brightly lit candle to add emphasis to such holiday carols as "Angels We Have Heard On High," "The First Noel" and of course, "Silent Night."

Afterwards, most of the attendees stayed for a Christmas turkey dinner provided by Jill Mikkelson, with proceeds to benefit the Becker County Food Pantry.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454