In An Old Mountain Bar On Christmas Eve

“A Child wandered in on some bums where they hid.” Old City Bar -Trans Siberian Orchestra

The quotes is from the song “In an Old City Bar” which is linked to at the bottom of the post. You may want to play it as you read. (This post is a rerun from last year.)

True Confession: My favorite Christmas music is by the Trans Siberian Orchestra which will probably cause some out there to claim “Ah ha! I knew she was a heretic.” I have seen them in person twice, one time with Deb. Oddly, I found myself in tears listening to one of their songs “In an Old City Bar.” Usually, that means I need to think.  And then I remembered…

It was our second year of marriage and we were living on the Navajo Indian Reservation. We were not going to be able to go home to the Boston area for Christmas. I was pretty sad since it would be the first Christmas away from my extended family. Christmas was a big deal at my house: food, games and presents. My father would wrap his presents to us, on purpose, in the worst possible way. Torn paper bags, string, ripped wrapping paper, glue and rubber bands. We would laugh so hard; he the loudest and longest of all. In fact, the presents we looked for the hardest were Dad’s crazily wrapped presents.

I was pleased that we decided to spend Christmas in a little town called Ouray in Colorado. It would provide a distraction. Back then, Ouray was small, nestled in the mountains. It’s fortunes have since changed and it is a now a bustling and trendy town. It was a fairly long drive from Gallup, New Mexico. We drove north past Shiprock and through the mountains surrounding Telluride. It was snowing quite heavily and we were forced to put on chains or the police would not let us into the dangerous passes. It was a bit scary.

When we arrived, the little town was deserted. We tried to check into our cabin but the people who ran it had gone away. They left a note with a key on the door of the cabin, along with some firewood, and said to slip the check under the front door of their house when we left. We were totally alone. In fact, we would never meet our hosts and have often remarked about their trust in their unknown guests.

We decided to try to find something to eat but everything was shut down except for a bar with a neon light that said “Open.” In we tromped, cold and tired. This was not some trendy watering hole. It was a plain old bar. The bartender said he could rustle up a burger for us and down we plopped. I was feeling a little sorry for myself. I had survived a treacherous car drive and was now sitting in an old bar, damp and tired, sipping a mediocre glass of wine with a bunch of drunks who probably got tossed out by their families.

And he (the Child) asked did we know
That outside in the snow
That someone was lost
Outside our door

As I looked around, we realized that, of the dozen or so people in the bar, we were the only couple. Everyone else was alone. Faces were bent over their drinks. Most of them looked sad and tired. There were several mountain men, kind of Duck Dynastyesque, with long beards, flannel shirts and jeans.

The bartender turned
and said, not that I care
But how would you know this?
The child said I noticed
If one could be home,
they’d be already there

Then, a man stood up. He looked like a businessman, more well dressed than all of us. He sat down at the piano. I do not think this was expected because the bartender looked a little rattled. To our surprise, the man began to play Christmas carols and he played them well. As time passed, people began to sing along, including the guys whose faces had been hunched over their mugs of beer. As they sang, they started to look around. As we caught each others eyes, we nodded and smiled, just a little bit. Even the bartender was singing quietly along.

Oh, was I mad at myself! I realized that the people in the bar were lonely and sad while I was sitting around, feeling sorry for myself. I was judging them instead loving them. Jesus not only loved them; He understood them. He was born in a cave, amongst the animals, to a teenage mother who was far from her home when she should have had the comfort of her family as she labored. Instead, it was only Joseph who most likely was not adept in birthing babies since that was often left up to the women. Can you imagine the judgment of those who knew about this woman giving birth in a cave, of all places?

Back at the bar, we began to leave after we sang “Silent Night.” The quiet sounds of “Merry Christmas” were heard. There were even a few pats on the back. The Child, 2,000 years later, still brought people together in very strange places.

The next morning, the sun came out and we drove up to a cross country ski area. The snow was too deep to easily ski. We were all alone, not another person could be seen or heard. It was so quiet that it almost hurt our ears. I thought about the quiet of a cave from which came an explosion that was louder than a nuclear bomb. It would forever change the landscape of this world. The drunk in the bar meant as much to this Child as the greatest of kings. In fact, I think He may feel even closer to them than to the privileged and arrogant.

So, as my kids grow up and leave home, I plan to find some places where people, outcast and alone, are spending Christmas Eve. Do not be surprised to see a woman, with cute shoes, sipping a glass of mediocre wine, on Christmas Eve in a run down bar. This time, however, she will have a have a sack with some presents to give to them. As she does, she plans to let them know that there is a Child who cares for them and knows what it is like to be in a strange place on Christmas Eve.


In An Old Mountain Bar On Christmas Eve — 25 Comments

  1. Merry Christmas to you and thanks for sharing such a good story. The first TSO album is my favorite Christmas music of all – reading the liner notes (the narration) and listening start to finish, frankly is an awesome experience of the true Christmas story – but then, I am a heretic too. Truth is, for me it captures the Gospel in a real life.

    My favorite line is from the song “Promises to Keep” – and I really think it sums up what living by faith is

    “If our kindness
    This day is just pretending
    If we pretend long enough
    Never giving up
    It just might be who we are”

    Words to live by

  2. Well, it’s obvious to me that the trouble with all of you is that you’re looking for the perfect church.

    What I would say is, if you ever find the perfect church, don’t join it – you’ll spoil it.

    Yours Sincerely,

    Arnold Smartarse

  3. I’m not sure you should be celebrating Christmas because it was once a pagan festival. Didn’t Jesus say you shouldn’t babble like pagans?

    God bless,

    Arnold Dummarse

  4. It’s true I didn’t invent “christmas” as such. But I did write the story. And it’s not finished…

    Best regards,


  5. I include this post with the very few reruns that are worth repeated reading. Thanks and a Blessed Christmas to all the readers here.

  6. Merry Christmas to all! May many unexpected, small, yet meaningful, blessings surprise us all.

  7. Thank you for this, and I love Trans-Siberian.

    I was 17 the Christmas of ‘74. My dad had finally left after my mom realized she could no longer take the violence. She had also found someone else, and I was mistrustful (he turned out to be wonderful, but that is another story). I begged my mom to let me travel to Oregon to see my great aunt and uncle, dear to me and in their late 80s.

    My mom let me go, 16 hours br Greyhound from San Francisco. I got there at 11 pm and walked to their home in the dark because I couldn’t figure out how to catch a cab. After a gentle scolding, they put one emotionally exhausted kid to bed. I was the parentified child who tried to keep the family together-my mom and dad’s counselor, the cleanup crew when my dad broke something, consoler of my younger sister…My aunt and uncle asked few questions, soaked me in the love of God and His Word, and it was one of the best Christmases I ever had.

    I returned home a week later and told my mom that I loved her, but I was NOT leaving high school the middle of my senior year just because she felt she needed someone else in her life. It was the first time I had advocated for myself. We figured it out. I stayed in our house alone and my parents checked in on me often. I was quite responsible, graduated, and went on to college.

    My elderly aunt and uncle kept stressing God’s love wrapped up in a baby, and that He would work out his loving plan for my life, too. I have always been gratefully for their acceptance of the emotionally bereft kid who showed up for Christmas of 1974.

    Merry Christmas!!

  8. Merry Christmas to all from Southern Cal. And as always Dee, neat story, not the usual fluff so common for this season.

  9. Merry Christmas from the San Francisco Bay Area. A great story and a great song. I had never heard it before. Shared on FB.

  10. God Bless you Dee. This was the most beautiful post I’ve read this Christmas season. You painted the perfect portrait of how our Savior ministers to the same souls as He did over two thousand years ago, while walking this earth. Different costumes on the outside, but the same human condition on the inside; our need for a Savior.

    Thank-you for sharing the humility of the faith; self righteousness never touches souls for Jesus, but humility and love conquer mountains. My daughter planned a camping and hiking trip to Ouray for us before her first child was born. In fact, she was five months pregnant while she out-hiked me up and down the mountains in the picturesque landscape that our LORD created. We ate sandwiches by Hope Lake and talked about God’s goodness and awesomeness; the worship there overlooking the lake was and still is indescribable. “Awe” seems too simple of a word and for Christmas that year, the new Mama (our first grandbaby was born early December of that year) gave me an enlarged print of one the grandiose views we was coming down the mountain from Hope Lake. It sits on the corner of my kitchen counter as a daily reminder of how our LORD transcends everything for His Ways are so much richer than ours.

    While you were feeling sorry for yourself, our LORD blessed and enriched your life immensely amongst those with whom Jesus came to save, not condemn. John 3:16-17

    Thank-you, thank-you for sharing this Christmas blessing. You are loved by the King of kings.

  11. “Midnight Communion” — Delbert McClinton

    Down at the neon angel beneath
    A flashing star
    A rag tag congregation is
    Gathered at the bar
    Searching for salvation for
    Just an hour or two
    While the jukebox in the corner
    Plays the blues

    It’s midnight communion
    Down on Second Avenue
    They take the wine ’til closing time
    A fellowship of fools
    Confessions heard, forgiveness given
    From twelve o’clock ’til two
    midnight communion
    Down on Second Avenue

    There’s one old fallen angel who’s
    Lost the will to fly
    But her broken wings still have the
    Strength to hold you when you cry
    Lord knows it’s not the best place to
    Lay my burdens down
    But someone’s always good for
    One more round

    It’s midnight communion
    Down on Second Avenue
    They take the wine ’til closing time
    A fellowship of fools
    Confessions heard, forgiveness given
    From twelve o’clock till two
    Midnight communion
    Down on Second Avenue

  12. I’ve read the mountain bar story before. It is just as powerful and heartwarming as it was the first time I read it.

    “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world………..”

  13. Love this song and TSO. Not heredical at all. And my experience this year was one of those stories. Missing a family that neither understands nor, I think likes me much, unable to get to planned excursion because of the weather, I was feeling sorry for myself. Then our neighbors sent their six-year-old, who is totes adorbs, to invite us over to dinner. I have no idea where they stand with God, but He still used them to make it a little more special.

  14. That’s a lovely story, thank you for sharing it. The way your dad wrapped presents is very familiar, I’ve done it that way myself since I was a wee lad. 🙂

    Hope your Christmas was good everybody and good fortune to y’all in the new year.