“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isa. 7:14)
The days were getting shorter and the nights were getting longer. It had turned colder and Mama began to bake every day.
She always baked a lot just before Christmas and there were good smells coming from the kitchen all the time.
I had guessed right about it almost being Christmas!
Brother’s day off from work came and they all left in the truck but I stayed home. It wasn’t long before they came back and there was the pretty green Christmas tree lying in the back.
I knew what to do this time. I stayed outside and played while they got the tree set up in the living room.
It wasn’t long before Mama went and got the Christmas boxes out of the storage shed.
I followed her back inside the house and we began to decorate the tree. Everyone was laughing and singing Christmas songs.
I sniffed inside the boxes and papers while Mom showed me all the colored balls and ornaments.
Dad and Brother wrapped the Christmas lights around the tree and when Dad turned them on they all lit up with bright colors.
Everyone went “Ahh” when they began to twinkle off and on.
The shiny ornaments were hung on the tree and there was even one that had “Jake” written on it.
When everyone was through they all talked about how pretty the tree was this year. Then everybody brought out the presents that had been hidden and placed them under the tree.
Everyone looked at how pretty their presents were wrapped and Brother even shook his and tried to guess what was inside.
Mom showed me my presents and I smelled them, but all I could smell was new plastic and rubber. Mom brought out the Christmas cookies and dog bones.
I had never seen my family so happy!
Then Dad said we were going to do something different this year. He turned on the radio and found a station playing Christmas carols.
He turned it down low, got his Bible from beside his chair, and he began to read.
He said that he was going to read the Christmas story.
I lay down beside Dad’s big brown chair and finished eating my dog biscuit, and Dad began to read.
I remember hearing him read about a man named Caesar, and taxes, and another man named Joseph with his wife Mary who was going to have a baby. And I began to get very sleepy.
And then I must have fallen asleep because that’s all I could remember.
I felt something cold falling on my nose and eyelashes and it was waking me up.
“I must be dreaming.” I thought. “I’m in my warm house with my family.” I barely opened my eyes so I could peep out without really having to be awake.
But all I saw was darkness, and it was cold.
I opened my eyes wide and sat up quickly. I was out in the field and under the cedar tree where my parents had first found me.
It was beginning to snow and it was melting as it landed on my face and fur.
This couldn’t be! How did I get out here?
I looked for the little gray house but it wasn’t there!
Marvin’s branch pile was gone, the fences were gone, even the cow pasture next to our field was gone. There were only fields and hills and some lights moving far in the distance.
Something terrible must have happened while I was asleep. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew that I had to find my family. They needed me and I needed them.
The snow began to stop falling, the clouds drifted away, and the stars started to twinkle in the night sky.
The faraway lights were clearer now. Maybe that was my family and I had gotten lost somehow. I began to run through the fields toward the lights.
I ran as far as I could until I was out of breath and couldn’t run any further. I had to slow down and walk but I kept heading toward the lights that I had seen.
I went through fields and up and down hills for what seemed like hours.
I finally came to the top of a hill and down below I saw the lights that I had been following. There was a narrow dirt road and some people were traveling on it.
The lights that I had seen were lanterns they were carrying.
Maybe this was my family! With all the strength I had left I ran towards the group of travelers, but I slowed down as I got closer. No one looked familiar.
I was thirsty, and hungry, and tired. I thought maybe there was someone here who could help me.
I came closer to a man and woman who were traveling at the back of the group. The woman was riding a donkey that the man was leading.
They must have heard me panting as I walked up behind. They both turned to look at me and the man held up the lantern to see me in the dark.
I had never felt or seen such kindness in anyone’s face as I saw in theirs. Not even my Mom and Dad.
“Look Mary,” said the man. “It’s a little black dog.”
“Oh Joseph, he looks so tired and thirsty,” the lady replied. “Pour him out some water in a cup and break off a piece of bread so he can eat.”
I sat and watched as the man stopped the donkey, poured out the water, and took some bread out of a sack. He knelt down and held the bread out toward me.
“Here boy,” he said. “Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? Come here boy, we won’t hurt you.”
I felt safe with these people, just like with Mom and Dad. I wagged my tail as I walked up slowly and took the bread out of the man’s hand.
As I gobbled down the bread and drank the water, I tried to say “thank you” but all that came out was a weak “grunt”.
“Oh listen, Joseph” replied the lady. “He grunts just like a little pig. How sweet! And look how hungry he is. He must have traveled a long way.”
The man reached out and gently patted my head.
“How about it, boy? Have you come a long way? We’ve traveled a long way, too. Are you lost? Are you looking for someone?”
I tried to explain about my family and the strange things that had happened, but all that came out were more grunts and oinks.
The lady smiled softly. “We’re going to a little town not far from here. Why don’t you come with us? Maybe there you’ll find what you’re looking for.”
Joseph picked up the cup and placed it back in their bag. He held up the lantern and they started walking back down the little road.
I followed close behind. Maybe my family was in this little town Mary spoke of.
Maybe all of my questions would be answered there.