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 
eyes too.  

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