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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Unexpected Christmas

This story was written by Marguerite Nixon had touched my heart. Thank you to Joyce and Martin Sedlak who had sent a Christmas Card last year which contented this story. May it gives all the readers great blessing and more understanding of what Christmas is about.

We were well over halfway to our farm when the storm broke. Lighting flashed, thunder crashed and a tree fell with a great ripping noise. When the rain poured in such a flood that we could not see the road, my husband drove off on what seemed to be a bit of clearing deep in the piney woods.

As we waited I sensed we would not get to the farm that night to celebrate Christmas Eve with our family. We were sitting there, miserable and dejected, when I heard a knocking on my window. A man with a lantern stood there beckoning us to follow him. My husband & I splashed after him up the path to his house.

A woman with a lamp in her hand stood in the doorway of an old house; a boy of about twelve and a little girl stood beside her. We went in soaked and dripping, and the family moved aside so we could feel the warmth of the fire. With the volubility of city people, my husband & I began to talk, explaining our plans. And with the quiteness of people who live in the silence of the woods, they listened.

"The bridge on Caney Creek is out. You are welcome to spend the night with us," the man said. And though we told them we thought it was an imposition, especially on Christmas Eve, they insisted. After we had visited awhile longer, the man got up and took the Bible from the mantel. "It's our custom to read the story from St. Luke on Christmas Eve," he said, and without another word began:

And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger...

The children sat up eagerly, their eyes bright with anticipation, while their father read on: And there were in the same county shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. I looked at his strong face. He could have been one of those shepherds.

When he finished reading and closed the Bible, the little children knelt by their chairs. The mother and father were kneeing, and without any conscious will of my own I found myself joining them. Then I saw my husband, without any embarrassment at all, kneel also.

When we arose, I looked around the room. There were no brightly wrapped packages or cards, only a small, unadorned holly tree on the mantel. Yet the spirit of Christmas was never more real to me.

The little boy broke the silence. "We always feed the cattle at twelve o'clock on Christmas Eve. Come withus."

The barn was warm and fragrant with the smell of hay and dried corn. A cow and horse greeted us, and there was a goat with tiny, wooly kid that came up to be petted. This is like the stable where the Baby was born, I thought. Here is the manger and the gentle animals to keep watch.

When we returned to the house, there was an air of festivity and the seving of juice and fruitcake. Later, we slept on a mattress made of corn shucks. As I turned to a comfortable position, they rustled under me and sent up a faint fragrance exactly like that in the barn. My heart said, "You are sleeping in the stable like Christ Child did."

As I drifted into a profound sleep, I knew that the light coming through the old pine shutters was the Star shining on that quite house.

The family walked down the path to the car with us the next morning. I was so filled with the Spirit of Christmas they had given me that I could find no words. Suddenly I thought of the gifts for our family in the backseat of our car.

I began to hand them out. My husband's gray woolensocks went to the man. The red sweater I hadbought for my sister went to the mother. I gave away 2 boxes of candy, the white mittens and the leather gloves while my husband nodded approval.

I was breathless from reaching in and out of the car as the family stood there loaded with the joy of Christmas packages. The mother spoke for all of them. "We thank you," she said simply. And then she said, "Wait!"

She hurried up the path to the house and came back with a quilt folded across her arms. It was beautifully handmade; the pattern was the Star of Bethlehem. I had to look up at the tallpines; I could not speak. It was indeed Christmas.

Every Christmas Eve since, I sleep under that quilt - the Star of Bethlehem. And in memory I visit the stable and smell again the corn shucks, and the meaning of Christmas abides with me once more.



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