That Christmas Eve, Jaybird leaned on the porch rail, looking across Mississippi Delta cotton fields he had worked for seventy years. In moon-blanched stillness, the rich soil was taking its winter rest.
The old farmer had seen good and bad cotton harvests, but none like the one just finished. The rains had come, plenteous and timely. Summer’s days had been long, hot, and humid, and cotton’s green blood, chlorophyll, raced in a delirium of photosynthesis from sunlight to leaves to soil to fruit, loading the plants with bulging bolls that produced a yield to top all yields…
From inside the house, Jaybird heard children laughing as they huddled about the Christmas tree, jostling one gift after another, speculating about their contents. The fireplace roared, stockings were hung, and good smells wafted from the kitchen.
The house was packed — everyone was home for the holidays. Savoring this moment of peaceful solitude, the old plowman strolled to the barn to check on the livestock. With its tin roof and thick cypress siding, the old building was as snug and weatherproof as ever.
A rush of pride lifted his heart when he saw the great, heaping mound of warm, white cotton stored in the barn, yet to be ginned. Just the sight of it made him marvel again at the magnitude of the year’s bountiful harvest. Satisfied that all was well, he switched off the light, closed the gate, and turned toward home.
In the cold, clear, frosty night, Jaybird looked up at a full moon, surrounded by Heaven’s infinite hosts — the stars of the Milky Way.
Then he stopped. That one big star … was it there last night? Had it always been there? Surely he would have noticed its glorious brightness, the way it seemed fixed above the ground on which he stood, the place he had always called home. He struggled to draw his eyes from the gleaming celestial light.
When Jaybird arrived home, he saw strangers on the porch, a young couple.
“Greetings, and Merry Christmas,” he said, noticing the woman’s bulging midsection. Her time was near. The man spoke.
“And Merry Christmas to you, Sir. Can you provide us shelter for just one night?”
“As you can see, the house is full, but there’s cotton stored in the barn, and with all those animals giving off warmth, you should be able to pass the night in reasonable comfort,” Jaybird answered.
Thanking him, the couple moved off into the dark. Jaybird’s grandchildren volunteered to take them food, blankets, and gifts — an example of true Christmas spirit at its best, their wise patriarch thought.
In bed that night, with his whole family under one roof, Jaybird couldn’t stop thinking of the strangers. Well before dawn, he dressed quietly and headed for the barn.
The wayfarers were gone, but they had left a note: “Thank you, from Mary, Joe, and our newborn son.”
Beneath their names appeared these words: Unto you is born this day a Savior.
Written by Jimmy Reed for and published by Canada Free Press ~ December 24, 2016.
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