As I looked through the headlines of recent events in our nation and world, I had a difficult time focusing on any of them because they were all negative in one way or another. My mind went to a story – a true story according to Willy Eagle -- about a Christmas miracle, a Christmas miracle of love. I decided to share this story with you tonight because I believe in miracles. I know that miracles take place because I have seen them; I have even seen Christmas miracles of my own. I know that miracles happen all around us and probably every day in some way or another. Miracles happen because people believe in Jesus Christ, and He in turn blesses them because He loves them.
Ether, an ancient American prophet, had the responsibility to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to his people. He fulfilled his responsibility, but the people rejected his teachings. Ether then had the responsibility to stand as a witness as his people destroyed themselves in wickedness and then to leave a record of what he saw. His record is found in the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ.
The prophet Ether wrote, “For if there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them; wherefore, he showed not himself until after their faith” (Book of Mormon, Ether 12:12).
When we have faith in Jesus Christ, we can expect miracles in our behalf and in behalf of our loved ones. As Christians we have the responsibility to be instruments in the hands of God as He performs miracles in the lives of other believers. Miracles are a sign of God’s love for those who believe in Him.
Because of Love
A brother and sister had made their usual hurried, obligatory pre-Christmas visit to the little farm where their parents lived and cared for their small herd of horses. They had grown up on the farm. It was called the Lone Pine Farm because of the huge pine standing on a hill behind the farmhouse. Through the years the tree had become a talisman to the old man and his wife, and a landmark in the countryside. The young siblings had fond memories of their childhood on the farm, but they had been drawn to the hustle and bustle of city life and enjoyed their exciting life in the city.
The old folks no longer showed the horses because the years had taken on toll on them. Getting to the barn on those frosty mornings was getting harder, but it also gave them a reason to get up in the mornings as well as a reason to live. They sold a few foals each year, and the horses were their reason for joy in the morning and contentment at day’s end.
Angry as they prepared to leave, the young couple confronted the old folks, “Why do you not at least dispose of the Old One? She is no longer of use to you. It’s been years since you’ve had foals from her. You should cut corners and save so you can have more for yourselves. How can this old worn out horse bring you anything but expense and work? Why do you keep her anyway?”
The old man looked down at his worn boots with holes in the toes and scuffed at the barn floor. He replied, “Yes, I could use a pair of new boots.”
His arm slid defensively about the Old One’s neck as he drew her near. With gentle caressing he rubbed her softly behind her ears. He replied quietly, “We keep her because of love. Nothing else, just love.”
Baffled and impatient, the young folks wished the old man and his wife a Merry Christmas and headed back toward the city as darkness stole through the valley. The couple shook their heads in sorrow that it had not been a happy visit. A tear fell upon their cheeks. How is it that these young folks do not understand the peace of the love that filled their hearts?
So it was, that because of the unhappy leave-taking, no one noticed the smell of the insulation smoldering on the frayed wires in the old barn. None saw the first spark fall, none but the “Old One”.
In a matter of minutes, the whole barn was ablaze and the hungry flames were licking at the loft full of hay. With a cry of horror and despair, the old man shouted to his wife to call for help as he raced to the barn to save their beloved horses. But the flames were roaring now, and the blazing heat drove him back. He sank sobbing to the ground, helpless before the fire’s fury. His wife came back from calling for help and cradled him in her arms; clinging to each other, they wept at their loss.
By the time the fire department arrived, only smoking, glowing ruins were left. The old man and his wife, exhausted from their grief, huddled together in front of the barn. They were speechless and stunned as they rose from the cold snow-covered ground. They nodded thanks to the firemen as there was nothing anyone could do now. The old man turned to his wife, resting her white head upon his shoulder as his shaking old hands clumsily dried her tears with a frayed red bandana. Brokenly he whispered, “We have lost much, but God has spared our home on this eve of Christmas. Let us gather strength and climb the hill to the old pine where we have sought comfort in times of despair. We will look down upon our home and give thanks to God that it has been spared and pray for our beloved most precious gifts that have been taken from us.”
And so the old man took his wife by the hand and slowly helped her up the snowy hill as he brushed aside his own tears with the back of his old, withered hand. The journey up the hill was hard for their old bodies in the deep snow. As they stepped over the little knoll at the crest of the hill, they paused to rest; looking up to the top of the hill, the old couple gasped and fell to their knees in amazement at the incredible beauty before them.
Seemingly, every glorious, brilliant star in the heavens was caught up in the glittering, snow-frosted branches of their beloved pine, and it was aglow with heavenly candles. And poised on its top-most bough, a crystal crescent moon glistened like spun glass. Never had a mere mortal created a Christmas tree such as this. They were breathless as the old man held his wife tighter in his arms.
Suddenly, the old man gave a cry of wonder and incredible joy. Amazed and mystified, he took his wife by the hand and pulled her forward. There, beneath the tree, in resplendent glory, a mist hovering over and glowing in the darkness was their Christmas gift, shadows glistening in the night light. Bedded down around the “Old One” close to the trunk of the tree was the entire herd, safe.
At the first hint of smoke, the "Old One" had pushed the door ajar with her muzzle and had led the horses through it. Slowly and with great dignity, never looking back, she had led them up the hill, stepping cautiously through the snow. The foals were frightened and dashed about. The skittish yearlings looked back at the crackling, hungry flames, and tucked their tails under them as they licked their lips and hopped like rabbits. The mares that were in foal with a new year’s crop of babies pressed uneasily against the “Old One” as she moved calmly up the hill to safety beneath the pine. And now she lay among them and gazed at the faces of the old man and his wife.
The "Old One" had not disappointed those she loved. Her body was brittle with years and tired from the climb, but the golden eyes were filled with devotion as she offered her gift – LOVE. It was given because of love, only because of love. Tears flowed as the old couple shouted their praise and joy. And again the peace of love filled their hearts.