Stacey Cole's Nature Talks: Imagining that wondrous night when Christ was bornBy STACEY COLE December 29. 2017 10:38PM
Editor’s note: The following column was originally published in the New Hampshire Union Leader on Saturday, Dec. 22, 2007, and was requested for reprint by reader Joe Reisert of Amherst.
The winter sun, paled by distant haze, splashed its spray of rays through leafless hardwoods and created a shadow tapestry on snow covered fields.
The rough wind of the afternoon had blown itself out and the air became cold and stilled. As the weak sun faded beyond our western hills, the sky colored slightly. A begrudging hint of warmth perhaps? The light sulked while it languished.
Looking out my west window on this late December day, I watched the darkness creep over our valley. This was the season when an early weariness settled into my bones. It did so gradually as does ground fog when it rises in our valley.
As my mind drifted back to those days gone by, suddenly the old grandfather’s clock in the kitchen struck five. Here at the farm, the stroke of five was the historic announced hour for milking to commence. After milking, the cattle would be bedded down for the night.
I remembered how time passed slowly before all the chores would be done and the hour for sleep could come. In winter, more than at any other time of the year, barn chores became dulled by their sameness. The deliberate daily routine that accompanied daylight shortened days brought on a weariness that seemed to cling as each day was brought to a close.
Unexpectedly, as I was mulling over those sometimes dreary days of yore, it came to me. Tonight was Christmas Eve! My spirit brightened!
For those who choose to earn their daily bread by caring for animals, Christmas Eve will always hold a special meaning. I remembered now that during my years working the farm, the usual weariness disappeared on the anniversary night of the miracle of Jesus’ birth. The commonplace matter of taking care of our stock was transformed into pleasant labor. Walking to the barn on that special night, the cares of the day became as light as a new-fallen snowflake. Love for each other and our animals grew stronger.
How nice it would be, I thought, to leave the world behind for awhile and be escorted back to that wondrous night when Christ was born.
I have always loved those words from the gospel according to St. Luke: “And she brought forth her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in the manger; for there was no room in the inn.” Those precious words still ring through my mind as clear as silver bells!
On Christmas Eve I have often wished I could have been one of the shepherds “abiding in a field, watching over their flock at night,” when the Angel of the Lord appeared. The shepherds were “sore afraid” and I have no doubt I would have been also.
After milking was done here at the farm and the cattle and sheep were fed, I always paused a while in our stable before returning to the house. Sitting on a bale of hay with my back against the wall of the sheep pen, I enjoyed listening to the sounds in the darkened barn. The stanchions creaked and groaned as the cows stretched their necks for an out-of-reach wisp of hay. The sheep made soft sounds as they selected a place to bed down in the straw. In a little while, after all the animals had laid down to rest, except for the near-whisper of their chewing, quiet set in.
In the hayloft above it was not unusual for the kittens to be heard pouncing about, being not quite through with their play. In a little while, though, even they curled up in a snug nest of hay to fall fast asleep. Peace had arrived in the sleeping stable.
As I closed the barn door, leaving the warmth of the stable, I felt a magic in the air. This is a night that will draw families closer together. And somewhere, old friends will join to celebrate our Savior’s birth. Threads of conversations will be pulled from a pattern of woven memories. Joy will abound, nurtured by the spirit of Christmas. And in the East, the star will shine.
I hope the day will soon arrive when the people of the world will find in their hearts a love for one another and strive to work together to create a true and lasting peace on earth.
A very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.
Stacey Cole, Nature Talks columnist for more than 50 years, passed away in 2014. If readers have a favorite column written by Stacey that they would like to see reprinted, please drop a note to Jen Lord at firstname.lastname@example.org.