It is Sunday night around 7 o’clock, and Dale and I are sitting in our living room enjoying the heat from our wood stove. It has been a special day for it was our last Christmas celebration for the year 2020. The pandemic caused us to wait a long time before we could see daughter Anne and our granddaughter. Today, we were careful to keep some distance, but Maddie had the virus at the beginning of December, and Anne has tested negative. It was time to be together. We have kept up our Christmas decorations so we could wish each other a true Merry Christmas in our home. We still have some trees with Christmas lights on them. Tomorrow, I will disconnect all but one tree on the top of our hill in the back of our home. That one will shine in colored splendor when we have our next snowstorm. This year we had one storm of 24 inches of snow but almost nothing since then. Most our our snow has disappeared. Unlike many others, we love the winter and rejoice in the snow.
Our beloved dog Molly is asleep some distance from our stove for her heavy fur coat cannot be removed. Today, she has had an exciting day with our small family gathering. She is so much fun and so very affectionate. You could not help but love her gentle spirit.
It is my desire to walk with you more often, and I hope that I can turn that hope into reality. The problem is that now my energy just runs out. My dreams are still vivid and real, but my body now guides my days. Some of you who walk with me know that feeling. Frustrating isn’t it? Each time I plan my day, I desire to accomplish many tasks; however that one day turns into several days. Do you also know that feeling?
The warmth of the fire brings me to remember what I learned in seminary about the founder of Methodism, John Wesley. At a Bible and Prayer meeting at Aldersgate, he expressed that while thinking of Jesus Christ, “his heart was strangely warmed.” I’ve had that feeling at times in church and at home and with my Christian friends and members in the churches I have served. That heart-warming feeling has sometime taken place on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. My heart has been strangely warmed during some special weddings or baptisms, and yes, even at some funerals. That warmth of faith has been felt when I saw a deer in a field nearby, or during a sunny day with a blue blue sky overhead and a beautiful bird singing in a nearby tree. I have felt it under a whispering pine tree moved by a moderate wind. This winter, I felt my heart strangely warmed inside a barn this past Christmas Eve when on Christmas Eve, we did something very different and extremely special.
It came about because when I was reading a Christmas annual that had an article on traditions in a Scandinavian country, the article spoke of the tradition of feeding animals a special feast on Christmas Eve. I could not help but think what a wonderful way to worship where so many churches were closed because of COVID19. Then I thought of a farmer in our community who had reached out in friendship to Dale and me. His wife loves animals and recently had adopted two donkeys that needed a home. They had the barn, the donkeys, the cattle, chickens, ducks, and geese. Could we hold a service in their barn? WE COULD!
At four-thirty on Christmas Eve, we gathered in the barn, just a handful of people, maybe like the gathering over two thousand years ago. The farmer who bears the same name as my son, Brad, read the Christmas story. We said the Lords Prayer. Our granddaughter sang along with her mother who played the guitar and sang two carols; we joined with them with Silent Night and Away in the Manger. My Dale read from the Gospel of Matthew, and I read a poem by Thomas Hardy entitled “The Oxen”. It is a poem that talks of the animals in a barn kneeling at midnight on Christmas Eve.
After the service there right in the barn, we had hot cider and homemade donuts. There is no question in my mind all who were there had their “hearts strangely warmed.”
What did you do at four-thirty on Christmas Eve? Wish you could have been there in that barn with us. But on Christmas Eve wherever you were, when you thought of the birth of our Lord Jesus, I hope the true meaning of that birth certainly “warmed your heart.”
Hope to walk with you again very soon. Until then, “May the Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent one from the other. Amen.”
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