Thank God for livestock at the time of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
With the stench of the election still blowing in the wind, Christmas comes as a breath of fresh air. Like that of cleaning the barn and refurbishing it with the amenities of golden flurry straw and freshly mown alfalfa hay — the comparison is heartwarming and reassuring.
So much so, that I want to continue to share with you the most popular of all my columns. There has been more response to the Christmas message than any other “story” I’ve told, a clear sign of the times. This is especially true in rural America, where Christian values are still the cornerstone of family lives.
As we celebrate the season of Christmas, we are reminded of the role that livestock played in the life of Jesus. His very survival at the time of his birth was dependent upon the heat and warmth of a barn full of livestock. To have laid him in a manger, protected from harm’s way, where the radiant body heat of the animals would keep him warm was as much a part of the miracle as the miracle itself.
The miracle that continues to sustain the world in these difficult times of war and terror will continue to give us hope for all eternity. To have been born of the Virgin Mary was miraculous, but to have survived is perhaps the greatest role that livestock has ever played in our lives.
We like to think of livestock as our primary source of protein, nourishment, and satiety value, like that of no other food. For those reasons alone we will always be grateful for God’s creation – especially meat for the table. But how much thought have we ever given to the fact that Jesus may never have survived that first night on earth if it hadn’t been for he comfort provided by that lowly barn full of God’s creatures?
The message is as clear and relevant today as it was then. The only difference is we’ve had Jesus since that point in time to sustain our lives and give us hope for all eternity.
As real as the message is to our lives, one would have to concede that those of us who grew up with livestock perhaps have an easier time relating than those who are generations removed from the ardors of the stable.
Remember when the barn was the focal point of the farm? When the barn up-staged the house and every other building on the farmstead? More time as spent in the barn than in the house, and certainly a lot more maintenance, upkeep, and money was spent in this arena. It was a lifestyle that left little doubt about believing in the Christmas miracle.
The stable was the focal point of our very existence. It was our source of income, food for the table, and often housed our only source of enabling power.
Horsepower, for many, was the only means of transportation in the cold of the winter months. I remember riding to school, buying groceries, and attending church in a horse driven sleigh, as there was no other means of transportation. The roads were drifted shut with high banks of snow, and temperatures were so cold that most vehicles wouldn’t start. Impassable roads were improvised in open fields and wind-swept prairies. Cars were housed under snow banks until the warmth of spring would thaw them out.
The Christmas miracle seemed so real.
Milking the cows and selling the beef and pork were our primary sources of income. Without the barn, none of this would have been possible. Relating to the barn was as second nature as that of visualizing Jesus lying in a manger in the comfort of all those livestock.
The sights, sounds, and smells of the barn instilled memories that will linger with me forever. There was nothing more welcoming than walking into a warm barn with the smell of freshly mown alfalfa, the clean golden comfort of fluffed-up straw, and the baaing of a newborn lamb.
There may not have been room in the Inn for Jesus, but I’m convinced that this was part of the “plan”. The stable has become symbolic for all of mankind to remember.
Unfortunately, man has become so far removed from the rigors of reality, that he can no longer connect with the miracle of Christmas. The Christmas story seems so far removed from today’s world, that it almost seems unbelievable. The bright lights and tinsel of modern-day Christmas has driven Christ further and further away, until the real gift of life has become over-shadowed by the gifts of materialism.
If the young people of today could only experience the feeling of waking up with frost on the end of your nose, or walking through a blinding snow storm to get to the barn, perhaps the miracle of Christmas would become more real to them. I remember tying a string several hundred feet long between the barn and the house to keep from losing our way.
And when the weather forecast predicted snow, cold, and wind it was time to “Hook up the team, heat up the oven and let’s get neighborly.” It’s Christmas time in America!
As the association of time and circumstances continue to drift away from the reality of the miracle of Christmas it is easy to understand that believing was easier when times were simpler. The reality of the world which man has made is causing many to lose their way.
Am I suggesting that we turn back in time, or things were better when we didn’t have electricity, television, e-mail, and all the other modern conveniences? Though I do wonder about that, there are no definitive answers, implied or otherwise. Progress is wonderful, but progress at the expense of condemnation, peace, and the void of the Christmas miracle is too high a price to pay!
Jesus paid the ultimate price of dying that we might live and be reborn into the glory of eternity. We can’t cash in on that price if we don’t believe. If it takes acquiring a donkey and building a little stable to get grounded — then do it! A “kick in the ass” wouldn’t hurt most of us. Just believe — it’s the best insurance policy you’ll ever own, and it’s free.
So, all of you livestock producers, listen up! You’ve got an easier row to hoe than those less fortunate than you. The stable and the manger make up the centerpiece of your labors, as well as the centerpiece of Christmas. Be more understanding of those less fortunate and show more leadership in spreading the good word of the miracle of Christmas. For those of us that know the difference, there comes an obligation of helping to save those that have not heard. Livestock producers are known to be pretty good at spreading it pretty thick.
My favorite spot to gather with my friends and neighbors is still my barn. My stable is the centerpiece of my folklore and a constant reminder of the centerpiece of my life.
Thank you for allowing me to share these sentiments during this special season of Christmas. I was asked to do this at one of our local churches during Christmas, and it has become a favorite message among senior citizen groups.
It was in the sharing of these stories that “Pony Tales by Ponty” was contrived. They are a collection of writings inspired by personal life experiences that are farm and livestock related. Within each story is a message of inspiration and hope from which one can draw empirical strength or empathy.
You’ve either been there or seen it happen.