Friday, December 23, 2011

In a One Horse Open Sleigh

It was a cold, wintry Wednesday afternoon in December, 1980. After class at William Jewell in Liberty, I headed my old Dodge north to Nettleton, Missouri, to the little country church where a handful of kindly folks first called me "Pastor". This was to be a very special evening, taking a break from the normal routine of a little Bible study and a long prayer list. This was a night for Christmas caroling, hot chocolate, and family fellowship.

As I pulled off the interstate and headed east on Highway 36, the gray skies seem to open and big flakes began to fall. By the time I pulled off the old highway on the gravel road, a fresh blanket of white had brightened the bleak December landscape. I wondered if my people would still want to get out in this sudden winter storm, but I soon learned that these were not soft city dwellers, quick to cancel any plans at the first sign of snow. The good people of Nettleton Baptist Church were hale and hearty country folks who faced nature's surprises without hesitation or fear. Snow and slick roads never put them off.

As we gathered and huddled in the warmth of the church, I learned that a new plan was already in place. Our neighbors just across the road from the church raised a few horses and were also the proud owners of a large antique sleigh. Sure enough, in just a little while we were skimming along the snowy roads, stopping to sing all the songs of the season on frigid front porches and around warm wood stoves. I remember the almost mystical quiet of the countryside, just the sound of the horse's hooves plodding through the snow. What a beautiful, magical evening it was. I stayed over that night with Bill and Linda, sleeping on the couch near the fireplace. The folks were not willing to send me off in the snowstorm alone.

As I reflect on that wonderful Wednesday evening, it occurs to me that our Nettleton folks fit into the Christmas story rather well - common, country folks out in the weather going from place to place celebrating the birth of the Savior. Those original shepherds had nothing on us. The Good News of great joy is for all people. Go tell it on the mountain and in the valley, in the factory and on the farm, in the city streets and across the countryside, in the sunshine and in the snow storm - Jesus Christ is born.           

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