Saturday, January 01, 2005

Christmas 2000

Dear Family and Friends,

Faith reveals a beautiful relationship between mystery and simplicity. Admittedly, this paradox has not always been easy to see this year in which I have spent the vast majority of my time at college studying chemistry. In fact, the week of finals would have led me to believe mystery begets confusion. Thankfully, family life has not ceased to inspire me with renewed faith.

Our family continues to appreciate the rewards of working the land. Isaac, who has his tractor license, is now nearly a full time farmer. Isaac parted with his old Ayrshire team and bought Brown Swiss calves to raise for oxen. He recently exhibited them pulling a Christmas tree, in a holiday parade. Isaac built a very stable hay-bale shed to house these calves for the first several months of their life. In addition to oxen, Isaac now has his own border collie pup that follows him incessantly; Isaac is training the pup to bring in the cow for milking.

Nathaniel and Isaac are study partners. They have strong beliefs and keep guard that college does not give me any new ideas with which they do not agree. We have regular conversations where I report what I have learned and Isaac and Nathaniel decide whether they agree or disagree with my professors. Through a system of checks and balances we three hold each other accountable. We enjoy each other’s presence and for a special outing this summer I drove Isaac and Nathaniel, along with their buddy Pat, up to New Hampshire to hike Mount Monadnock. In addition to attending a weekly young men’s meeting (which Isaac helps lead), Isaac and Nathaniel accompany me to a weekly Bible study.

This summer, Mom and Luke had the unique opportunity of going to Minnesota together for Mom’s sister’s wedding. Luke received first-class treatment including transportation in a limousine. Luke is developing into a diligent farm hand. He has the responsibility of caring for his thirty-plus chickens. In addition to his farm duties he and Hannah walk the neighbor’s dog. Luke and Hannah make a good team, laboring and schooling together. They both attend weekly youth meetings at a local church. Hannah is a very faithful club member, always remembering to memorize her verses, in the process teaching them to Rebecca after the lights go out. Hannah and I have had special times reading and talking this year - she is my personal lap warmer.

Jacob and Caleb have both made strides in their studies this year. Mom has faithfully worked with Jacob, teaching him how to read, write and do arithmetic. Jacob is the family’s information bearer and goes to great lengths to recount events. Jacob has spunk and qualities that make him a good candidate to follow in his father’s lawyerly steps. Before Dad leaves for the Public Defender’s office every morning, he tutors Caleb and Rebecca in elementary skills. Caleb feels especially excited to be treated as an older child, and have his own workbooks. It is strange for the family to have the baby be three years old!

Mom and I still relish the opportunity we have to walk together in the mornings. Mom delights in making every member of the family feel special and appreciated. Mom witnesses by example - the family is so grateful for her faithfulness.
Order in the home is preserved through Dad. He challenges each member to understand the principles on which we have built our lives. Dad spends much of his home life with the children gardening, chopping wood, fixing broken windows, playing board games, hiking and working on the farm. But Dad’s favorite pastimes are just being with Mom.

The other evening as I was praying with my sister Rebecca, I became intrigued by her evident confidence in the existence of God. I ventured to ask, “Becca, Who is God?”

“God?”, she responded, “I don’t understand what you mean. God is God.”

“But Becca, why do you talk to Him?”

“Because I Iove Him,” she quickly answered.

These answers would never have satisfied a rationale-seeking man, but to me, that evening, they were profound. Christmas beckons all of us to share in this childlike faith. There is no reason, there is no logic, formula or law to explain why masses of humanity annually celebrate the birth of a baby born in a lowly stable, and laid in a feeding trough for beasts. Should not great majesty have encompassed the incarnation of God? Yet God’s omniscience, wiser than our best reasoning, destined His son to be humbly born into a sin tilled race. And herein, mystery was transformed into simplicity. Man’s complex search for God, in a moment, was ended. How? That is the mystery. Our response to the incredible gift? That is the simplicity.

Merry Christmas,
Sarah E. Angell