The cadenced crunch of a hunter’s boots breaking the icy crust of the sequined snow breached Nature’s silence in the muted forest. A young man fought the tumult in the back of his mind, it was Christmas Day and with that came the feelings of hopeless loss. Gone were the idealistic childhood fantasies, and in its place the mandated orgy of a commercial x-mas. So gun in hand, he hid in the only safe place he knew, his beloved woods. Sure the idea of killing on Christmas, even for food, seemed an affront to his waning Faith, but having checked the compendium of laws and finding no prohibition; the alternative was manifest of far worse transgressions.
The din of chaos back in town reverberated in his head. The partisan cheers and expletive laden rants that his beer-lubricated uncles and cousins hurled at the televised games that they could never have excelled in, entwined with the soprano chortles of his gossiping mother and the female relatives as they busied themselves in preparing a gluttonous feast. The shreds of the decorative paper that had once secreted the obligatory tithes to the doctrine of the all-American, conspicuous consumerism were quickly devoured by flames, spewing their chemical laden smoke up the chimney egress of the mythical Santa. Even last evening’s church service had an air of a compulsory social appearance rather than any resemblance of reverent observance of the Christ’s birth. What of this is supposed to be the Christmas Spirit?
The pristine trail had led most of a mile from his rusty truck and the unintentionally forgotten Thermos of coffee. Leaning against a tree, the lone sojourner tapped a cigarette from its pack and inhaled the soothing wisps of tobacco. He thought about his long absent father and what he would have thought about the evolution of this holiday; for that matter, what he would have thought about his son slowly injuring himself with the tars that carried the addictive nicotine deep into his lungs. The conflicts of life were mental enigma that defied resolution; there arose a discomforting understanding of why so many veered to less pious paths. There is the inevitability that every man is a sinner.
The cigarette dropped into a snowy boot track as muscle memory and woodsman instinct brought the shotgun to its ready. A young tom stepped from the briars and announced his presence with a loud gobble. Without thought or hesitation, the safety was off, the trigger pulled, and the turkey lain quivering; its blood staining the virgin blanket of white.
The disquieting ruminations abandoned, the huntsman set about field dressing the bird to preserve the meat from the effects of gastric fluids and bile. It was a small male, less than half the size of the domesticated fowl his mother was basting in her oven. But this was a gift of nourishment, not a product of the purposeless life of inhumane farming; this bird grew in the freedom of Nature and fed on the bounty of the forest, not caged in the confines of fecal laden barns, feeding on antibiotics and growth hormones. His head bowed, the hunter said a prayer of gratitude, and then stood in the realization that life’s meaning often transcends reason.
Retracing his steps back to the familiar trail, an unexpected aroma of wood smoke piqued the interest of the seeker. In the snow, less than thirty yards from the tree from where he had shot the turkey, there were unmistakable tracks of someone who had come from deeper in the forest and then retreated along the same course.
The path led to a ramshackle campsite. A young husband and wife with their infant child, too young to be exposed to the winter air, sat huddled near a fire pit. The camp consisted of a modest sized tent which housed sleeping bags and disorganized piles of clothing, there was an axe left idle near a sizable wood pile of deadfall, some rudimentary cooking implements, an oaken bucket used to fetch water from the nearby stream, and a rusty but workable bicycle.
Their story was not unheard of in these difficult times. Eking out a modest two-earner living, an unplanned pregnancy, an employer’s failed business, and the inefficient snail’s pace of a secular welfare system left the couple with few viable options.
The turkey was retrieved from the game pouch and presented as a Christmas gift to the wayward couple. With patient instruction, water was heated and the fowl cleaned of its feathers, a spit was built of green wood and the meat set to roast. The hunter then gave his cherished Remington to the husband so that his family might never go hungry. He emptied his wallet and pockets of all of his cash and change, giving it to the wife so that baby might have its necessities. And finally taking the family by their hands and kneeling beside the fire, the young man bowed to the child and recited what he could remember of the Gospel’s account of that first Christmas more than two millennia ago.
The shadows had grown long as the shortened day began to wane. Wary of the unarmed return trek in darkness, the hunter bid the pilgrims farewell and left into the deepening nightfall.
Now the quintessence of any Christmas story is some defining, feel-good miracle, but the true Christmas Miracle happened more than two thousand years ago and still reverberates through the world today. Who doesn’t feel the Miracle whenever someone leaves a gold coin or diamond ring in one of those “red kettles,” or the news hits of a stranger paying off someone else’s layaway bill, or a soup kitchen feeding the needy, or a motorcycle club gathering toys… The list goes on and on, not only during this season of realization, generosity and charity, but throughout the year. The thing is, is that the “feel-good” Christmas Miracle only becomes miraculous when it touches you and causes you to touch someone else.
This is not one of my autobiographical memoires that happens to fit the time and message, but I will admit that its impetus was a “favor” I did for someone I barely know, and the worry and insecurity I had over potentially being scammed. In the end, my deed did some good, and although it did not permanently solve the other person’s dilemma, it did allay a portion of the emergent crisis.
I would like to invite each of you to get involved in Christmas, not only this week, but every week. There is not one of us who alone, can save the world, but even the tiniest pebble makes a ripple. Do something you can be proud of, even if it feels a little scary or uncomfortable. Make a little ripple in the continuum of humanity, and maybe together we can join to form a tsunami of good. Together, just maybe, we can save at least a part of the world. Go make someone’s day, and have a Merry Christmas.