Luke 2:1-20 - Special Christmas Devotional - Pa And The Rifle.
Luke 2:1-20: Special Christmas Devotional - Pa And The Rifle.
Pa never had much compassion for the lazy or those who
squandered their means and then never had enough for the necessities. But
for those who were genuinely in need, his heart was as big as all
outdoors. It was from him that I learned the greatest joy in life comes
from giving, not from receiving.
It was Christmas Eve 1881. I was fifteen years old and feeling
like the world had caved in on me because there just hadn't been
enough money to buy me the rifle that I'd wanted for Christmas. We did
the chores early that night for some reason. I just figured Pa
wanted a little extra time so we could read in the Bible.
After supper was over I took my boots off and stretched out in
front of the fireplace and waited for Pa to get down the old Bible. I
was still feeling sorry for myself and, to be honest, I wasn't in
much of a mood to read Scriptures. But Pa didn't get the Bible,
instead he bundled up again and went outside. I couldn't figure it out
because we had already done all the chores. I didn't worry about it
long though, I was too busy wallowing in self-pity.
Soon Pa came back in. It was a cold clear night out and there
was ice in his beard. "Come on, Matt," he said. "Bundle up good,
it's cold out tonight." I was really upset then. Not only wasn't I
getting the rifle for Christmas, now Pa was dragging me out in the cold,
and for no earthly reason that I could see. We'd already done all
the chores, and I couldn't think of anything else that needed doing,
especially not on a night like this.
But I knew Pa was not very patient at one dragging one's feet
when he'd told them to do something, so I got up and put my boots
back on and got my cap, coat, and mittens. Ma gave me a mysterious
smile as I opened the door to leave the house. Something was up, but I
didn't know what.
Outside, I became even more dismayed. There in front of the
house was the work team, already hitched to the big sled. Whatever it
was we were going to do wasn't going to be a short, quick, little
job. I could tell. We never hitched up this sled unless we were
going to haul a big load.
Pa was already up on the seat, reins in hand. I reluctantly
climbed up beside him. The cold was already biting at me. I wasn't
happy. When I was on, Pa pulled the sled around the house and stopped
in front of the woodshed. He got off and I followed. "I think
we'll put on the high sideboards," he said. "Here, help me." The high
sideboards! It had been a bigger job than I wanted to do with just the low
sideboards on, but whatever it was we were going to do would be a lot
bigger with the high sideboards on.
After we had exchanged the sideboards, Pa went into the woodshed
and came out with an armload of wood---the wood I'd spent all summer
hauling down from the mountain, and then all Fall sawing into blocks and
splitting. What was he doing? Finally I said something. "Pa," I asked,
"what are you doing?" You been by the Widow Jensen's lately?" he
asked. The Widow Jensen lived about two miles down the road. Her
husband had died a year or so before and left her with three children,
the oldest being eight. Sure, I'd been by, but so what? "Yeah," I
said, "Why?" "I rode by just today," Pa said. "Little Jakey was out
digging around in the woodpile trying to find a few chips. They're out
of wood, Matt."
That was all he said and then he turned and went back into the
woodshed for another armload of wood. I followed him. We loaded the
sled so high that I began to wonder if the horses would be able to
pull it. Finally, Pa called a halt to our loading, then we went to
the smoke house and Pa took down a big ham and a side of bacon. He
handed them to me and told me to put them in the sled and wait.
When he returned he was carrying a sack of flour over his right
shoulder and a smaller sack of something in his left hand. "What's in the
little sack?" I asked. "Shoes. They're out of shoes. Little Jakey
just had gunny sacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in the
woodpile this morning. I got the children a little candy too. It just
wouldn't be Christmas without a little candy."
We rode the two miles to Widow Jensen's pretty much in silence.
I tried to think through what Pa was doing. We didn't have much
by worldly standards. Of course, we did have a big woodpile,
though most of what was left now was still in the form of logs that I
would have to saw into blocks and split before we could use it. We
also had meat and flour, so we could spare that, but I knew we didn't
have any money, so why was Pa buying them shoes and candy?
Really, why was he doing any of this? Widow Jensen had closer
neighbors than us; it shouldn't have been our concern. We came in from
the blind side of the Jensen house and unloaded the wood as quietly
as possible, then we took the meat and flour and shoes to the door.
We knocked. The door opened a crack and a timid voice said, "Who
is it?" "Lucas Miles, Ma'am, and my son, Matt. Could we come in
for a bit?"
Widow Jensen opened the door and let us in. She had a blanket
wrapped around her shoulders. The children were wrapped in another and
were sitting in front of the fireplace by a very small fire that
hardly gave off any heat at all. Widow Jensen fumbled with a match and
finally lit the lamp. "We brought you a few things, Ma'am," Pa said and
set down the sack of flour. I put the meat on the table. Then Pa
handed her the sack that had the shoes in it.
She opened it hesitantly and took the shoes out one pair at a
time. There was a pair for her and one for each of the
children---sturdy shoes, the best, shoes that would last. I watched her
carefully. She bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling and then tears
filled her eyes and started running down her cheeks. She looked up at
Pa like she wanted to say something, but it wouldn't come out.
"We brought a load of wood too, Ma'am," Pa said. He turned to
me and said, "Matt, go bring in enough to last awhile. Let's get
that fire up to size and heat this place up." I wasn't the same
person when I went back out to bring in the wood. I had a big lump in
my throat and as much as I hate to admit it, there were tears in my
In my mind I kept seeing those three kids huddled around the
fireplace and their mother standing there with tears running down her
cheeks with so much gratitude in her heart that she couldn't speak. My
heart swelled within me and a joy that I'd never known before, filled
my soul. I had given at Christmas many times before, but never
when it had made so much difference. I could see we were literally
saving the lives of these people.
I soon had the fire blazing and everyone's spirits soared. The
kids started giggling when Pa handed them each a piece of candy and
Widow Jensen looked on with a smile that probably hadn't crossed her
face for a long time. She finally turned to us. "God bless you," she
said. "I know the Lord has sent you. The children and I have been
praying that he would send one of his angels to spare us."
In spite of myself, the lump returned to my throat and the tears
welled up in my eyes again. I'd never thought of Pa in those exact
terms before, but after Widow Jensen mentioned it I could see that it
was probably true. I was sure that a better man than Pa had never
walked the earth. I started remembering all the times he had gone out
of his way for Ma and me, and many others. The list seemed endless
as I thought on it.
Pa insisted that everyone try on the shoes before we left. I was
amazed when they all fit and I wondered how he had known what sizes to
get. Then I guessed that if he was on an errand for the Lord that
the Lord would make sure he got the right sizes.
Tears were running down Widow Jensen's face again when we stood
up to leave. Pa took each of the kids in his big arms and gave
them a hug. They clung to him and didn't want us to go. I could see
that they missed their Pa, and I was glad that I still had mine.
At the door Pa turned to Widow Jensen and said, "The Mrs. wanted
me to invite you and the children over for Christmas dinner
tomorrow. The turkey will be more than the three of us can eat, and a man
can get cantankerous if he has to eat turkey for too many meals.
We'll be by to get you about eleven. It'll be nice to have some
little ones around again. Matt, here, hasn't been little for quite a
spell." I was the youngest. My two brothers and two sisters had all
married and had moved away. Widow Jensen nodded and said, "Thank you,
Brother Miles. I don't have to say, "'May the Lord bless you,' I know
for certain that He will."
Out on the sled I felt a warmth that came from deep within and I
didn't even notice the cold. When we had gone a ways, Pa turned to me
and said, "Matt, I want you to know something. Your ma and me have
been tucking a little money away here and there all year so we could
buy that rifle for you, but we didn't have quite enough.
Then yesterday a man who owed me a little money from years back
came by to make things square. Your ma and me were real excited,
thinking that now we could get you that rifle, and I started into town
this morning to do just that. But on the way I saw little Jakey out
scratching in the woodpile with his feet wrapped in those gunny sacks and I
knew what I had to do. Son, I spent the money for shoes and a little
candy for those children. I hope you understand."
I understood, and my eyes became wet with tears again. I
understood very well, and I was so glad Pa had done it. Now the rifle
seemed very low on my list of priorities. Pa had given me a lot more.
He had given me the look on Widow Jensen's face and the radiant
smiles of her three children.
For the rest of my life, Whenever I saw any of the Jensen's, or
split a block of wood, I remembered, and remembering brought back that
same joy I felt riding home beside Pa that night. Pa had given me
much more than a rifle that night, he had given me the best Christmas
of my life. by Rian B. Anderson