This week the children are coming to Bittersweet Farm for Christmas from New Mexico, Texas, Wisconsin, and West Michigan. We just returned from Oregon where we visited Holly and Jesse and their little growing family. Early Saturday morning we put my Spotify Christmas playlist on the car speakers and drove through the Coastal Range from Seaside to Portland then boarded a plane back to our home here on Bittersweet Farm.
We are looking forward to being with some of the people we love and don’t often get to see. I hope you all will enjoy a little circle of love during the Christmas and New Year holidays.
Bethel Church is flourishing. Yesterday was a happy day at Bethel including a choir, english handbells, a special Christmas piano solo by Larry Carlson, and a beautiful sacred dance. I’m taking my Christmas messages from the prophecies of Isaiah this year. Yesterday we returned home with our hearts full and grateful, laden with Christmas gifts and Christmas treats from Bethel parishioners. Over a quiet lunch Lois and Hope and I talked about what a kindness from God it was that we were led to Bethel and to Bittersweet Farm.
One Christmas I climbed high into the gable end of our huge barn on an important mission… Something happened that night that none of us will ever forget:
Are Your Lights On?
It must have been the coldest day of the winter so far. Our neighbor silenced the pleading of his children by climbing to the top of his TV antenna tower to hang a star of colored lights. His daughter came down the hill red-cheeked, all bundled up and begged us to come up and see it.
I have always been proud of my imagination, but it took every ounce of it to tell the wad of lights up there was a star. I did admire the man’s humble attempt to make a memory for his children. They will have children of their own one day. When they do this tangled string of lights will become a breath-taking and brilliant display in the re-telling.
Christmas had come simply to my neighbors little trailer on the hill. His star is shining. Sadly that is not true with everyone this time of year.
One year I was running short of calling nights. The Christmas crunch would make it impossible to find people home or receptive to my visits. I needed to visit a family one night so I turned off the state highway and pointed my little brown station-wagon north and wound through Apple Valley five miles toward the Fleeman’s home. The snow had been falling most of the evening. Flakes were coming faster and thicker. It was hard to read the road signs. I always had trouble finding their lane anyway. Was it West Moreland or East Highland?
The car was cold, my heater was broken, and the defroster blew ice-cold air on my windshield. I thought of our old warm farmhouse nestled in the Walhounding River valley. I imagined the smell of dinner, a hot cup of cocoa, and my big recliner surrounded by children, but I determined not to go home until I had made this call.
My headlights threw a pool of light on the darkness ahead. Suddenly I remembered something that would simplify everything. Every year Sonny outlined their entire house in Christmas lights and displayed a huge star on the top of their TV tower. That star should be visible for a mile or more even on this dark snowy night. I searched the darkness for the star without success.
Finally, guessing at the road, I turned down a lane that lead to their home. When their house came into view it was dark. No lights, no candles in the window, no light from within, no Christmas lights, and no star overhead.
Since I had come so far I knocked anyway to be sure. Sonny was home. He manages a large department store and must work up to Christmas Eve and return the day after to process returns. It was impossible for him to travel home to his people in the south for Christmas. That year his family went south without him. With the boys gone he had not gone to the trouble to display the lights or hang the star.
As I drove away after a nice visit, I wondered how many times someone looked to me when they were lost and cold. How many times had someone looked to see if my star was shining? Was the light of Christ’s love shining when people lost in darkness needed it?
One night the girls went Christmas shopping and the boys stayed home. I called the boys out to the workshop and we pounded nails in a big square of plywood. We took a couple strings of lights and wound them around the nails. “Oh, a star!” Chuk said, when I plugged in the lights.
At great personal risk I climbed up into the peak of our huge barn and fed a rope over a pulley in the gable end. Within an hour we had hoisted the huge star into place. I struggled in the darkness to keep my footing on the old ladder nailed to the inside of the barn wall, but I still remember the warmth and excitement that came to my heart as we pulled the beautiful lights up into place.
If you had taken your family out State Route 36 in eastern Knox County, Ohio that Christmas, and looked to the north about a half-mile after you passed over the river, you would have seen our star from a mile away and you would know our little valley was occupied by people whose hearts still beat fast when they think of the wonderful miracle of the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
Will your star be shining this year?