There’s something special about a candlelight service, singing “Silent Night” while looking over at your kids and family, and feeling the special significance of the message being delivered. At the same time, I understand that many choose not to celebrate Christmas in this way.
It got me to contemplating why our lifestyle in general has the ability to provide a lot of special meaning in and of itself. Here's my version of another “Cowboy Christmas.”
It’s 4:30 a.m. He heads out from the house quite a bit earlier than normal; it isn't even light till about 6:30. But he wants to be back in time to see the kids and the tree, and spend time with the kids. Mom has promised she’ll be able to hold them off until 7 a.m. or a little later. With great-grandma visiting, she’s told the kids the gifts will have to wait until she gets up.
The air is bitter cold, but this morning is special; there even seems to be something purer about watching one's breath in the morning air. You can't help but think of a young woman in a cold barn, a little child in a manger.
He pulls his collar up and heads to the horse barn. Smiling at the warmth and smell he encounters as he enters, the horses knicker a welcome. Technically the chores today are the same as any other morning, but it’s Christmas and every sight, every smell, reminds him of the beauty of nature, of the blessing he’s been given as a steward of other living things. He adds a little extra grain and a flake of hay for each horse. Even though he’s in a hurry, he takes a few minutes to talk to his favorite mount and scratch on him a little.
The old diesel truck clatters in the cold, as he heads to the corn stalks; the sun is starting to emerge and the world seems a little surreal. He finds himself saying a prayer, thinking of his life, and contemplating the true meaning of Christmas.
Even chopping ice takes on more significance. Feeling extra blessed, he stops at his neighbors who have graciously cared for “Santa's puppy” for a day and a half. He tucks the puppy into his jacket and, upon arriving back at the house, sneaks in, puts the bow around the pup’s neck, sets him down in the kids’ room, and hustles into bed.
A while later, he hears the shriek of joy as the kids discover the pup, and call for mom and dad. As everyone gathers around the tree, he looks out the window, and just smiles because if he could change things, it wouldn't be anything but a few upgrades.
Merry Christmas to you and yours. And remember to think warm thoughts and quiet prayers about those who can’t be with their loved ones at this time due to various reasons, most importantly service to their country.