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A PLACE APART:
The Christmas Barn

The parsonage barn was always small, left over from a not too far distant past when horse and buggy were a necessary part of life. Now it housed a Model A and a cow or two, sometimes goats, always chickens, occasionally a pig. 

Being the oldest and my father's shadow, my very earliest memory is of a barn at milking time. It might be brewing a Dakota blizzard or the thermometer heading for forty below, but inside the barn, by lantern light, it was a warm and friendly place.

The cows mooed softly as you entered, not just because it was feeding time, but because we were all family. The cats twined around our ankles, and a favorite kitten jumped to a welcoming shoulder. The chickens rustled feathers on their roosts and the pig grunted a feeding time greeting, as well.

Fragrant alfalfa hay was forked down from the mow. A scoop of grain from the barrel by the door and it was milking time. The cats lined up for a squirt of supper, and the cows relaxed to the rhythmic music of milk ringing into a filling pail.

There were still more chores to be done--coal and cobs to be carried in, milk to be run through the separator, ashes to be carried out--but milking time was special.

When Jesus came to Bethlehem it was not to a parade with banners and gala reception; he did not stay at the governor's palace, or the Holiday Inn. Instead, he came to a barn, with a donkey, in the midst of the day's activities--at chore time.

And the question that I, at least, must ponder in this season, is simply this--in the middle of all this busyness, where have I provided a warm, welcoming spot for the Prince of Peace? -

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