Saturday, January 01, 2005

Christmas 2001

Greetings this holiday season as we once again joyfully celebrate the glorious Incarnation. The mysterious reality of Christ’s birth and death continues to bring purpose and hope into our lives, even through the difficulties and joys of the past year. “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary, and his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint and to him who has no might he increases strength” (Isaiah 40:28-29). We give thanks for another year where the manifestation of God’s goodness has been apparent even amidst the suffering and affliction of so many around us.

Our family has immensely missed Sarah attending college in Oregon. To follow in Sarah’s footsteps, Nato Potato (Nathaniel) has started writing the Christmas letter. I acquired my nickname mainly because of my figure. Known as “solid with a little jiggle,” I am a reminder of Saint Nicholas with my rosy cheeks and waistline.

This past year was very memorable. Sarah graduated from Dutchess Community College and left for George Fox University (a Quaker college south of Portland, OR) as a junior, majoring in chemistry. She has appreciated both the academic challenge and the opportunity to be enveloped into a new community. Isaac has passed a milestone in his career by obtaining his driver’s license. He also spent many hours of the past year preparing a pasture, shed and high tensile fence for his oxen. This summer I spent a few fun days with Dad hiking and boating in the Adirondacks. Luke keeps very busy as the official caretaker for his Black Java chickens. However, both illness and Low Egg Production Syndrome have overcome his chickens, so he plans to purchase a new variety next year. Hannah won a blue ribbon this year at the Dutchess County Fair in her first show ring experience. She also enjoys a new hobby: playing the organ. Jacob has grown out of his mischief. He is a cheerful young man always willing to help. Rebecca’s smile and loving spirit make us all feel appreciated. After years of experience mothering her dolls, Rebecca is now the family nurse. Caleb is our mascot, dubbed “Beetle” and “Larry.” His inquisitive spirit keeps us busy answering his latest marvelings about the world around him.

Life begins every morning for Luke, Isaac, and me (the farm crew) with NPR’s Bob Edwards announcing the news at five o’clock. Farm chores are accomplished with a tired mind but a light heart. Later, after schoolwork, lunch and house chores, we begin work at the farm. Our daily commute to the farm usually results with “Life in the Fast Lane” as all able bodies bolt down Bentley Lane. Isaac drives his Brown Swiss ox team (Tom and Sam), a few kids fly down on bicycles, the rest run, and Bentley (the Border Collie) runs circles around the whole clan. What is all the rush for? We have many projects varying with the weather, time and season: hay baling, fencing, plowing, seeding, weeding, milking, manure pitching, briar cleaning, etc. Henry, the farmer, directs us as we assist him in the pursuit of a job well done. Forever, we will remember the nine of hard work.

Living together as a family means cuddling up to Mom, listening to Dad read Scripture and stories, and working together on our studies. It also includes booboos and Band-Aids, consumption often annual birthday cakes, and water sprinkler parties on dog days. Lately we have started singing at a local nursing home with our musically talented leader and friend. We are not great singers. But we all look alike with Oakland A’s (“Band of Angells”) caps on and smiles stretched from ear to ear. The patients enjoy the fanfare as we march around center stage, waving our caps, and singing cheerful renditions of “Oh, When the Saints go Marching In” and “You are my Sunshine.” It is truly amazing how the patients awake from their daydreams and occasionally sing along. Their happiness makes this a very rewarding experience for our family. This is only one of our various family outings. Hikes up Stissing Mountain, walks at various parks and chocolate ice cream cone trips to Holy Cow are a few examples. This past year also afforded us the opportunity to drive the round trip to Minnesota for Grandpa and Grandma’s fiftieth anniversary. Forever we will remember these joyful times and simple exchanges of affection.

Mom is very popular in our home. As our family gathers to read at night, Mom has many children clinging to her every appendage. Whether this is due to her fast food production of grilled cheese sandwiches, many hours of homeschooling, surprise farm deliveries of warn chocolate chip cookies, or rushed care packages to Oregon, we all agree that Mom is basically the best!

Dad’s job as a Public Defender continues to provide him an opportunity to work with the poor in Poughkeepsie. At home, Dad enjoys playing seemingly endless chess games and dubious ping-pong games with us kids. He also works with us on many projects: restoring the upstairs bathroom, chopping wood, fixing our car and helping out with odd chores at the farm.

Christmas is a testimony, a tribute to the light that the Christ child brought into a world waiting for the hope of salvation. We are reminded in the painful disappointments of life that living in the light of Christ can be a difficult and baffling task. This past year, many lives and hopes were shaken and shattered by the unimaginable. The immediate result was affliction. It is sometimes difficult to comprehend how God’s mercy and compassion could appear so unfeeling toward the suffering of man. Yet as we consider the magnanimity of this question, may we not forget the suffering that Christ endured for our sake. The sweat of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, the cutting wounds from an iron whip, the excruciating pain from the crown of thorns, the taunting script, “King of the Jews,” the immense weight of his own cross, the sharp nails which bound him to the tree remind us that the Incarnate God is not distant from our pain. May we all the more eagerly await the joy of Heaven, where the sorrow and hurt of this life will be forgotten in the earnest love of God. May we be encouraged that the Light shines ever more radiantly in the midst of darkness and that the darkness has not yet overcome the glory of the Light.

Nathaniel Angell (for the entire band of Angells)