Finding Christmas in the Last Place You Thought to Look – #tellhisstory

December 19, 2016 | 8 comments

I can pinpoint the exact moment when I stumbled onto Christmas that year.

As usual, the moment wasn’t strung in lights or wrapped in shiny paper. I didn’t find it under a prelit tree, or at a big-box store or out on the Information Superhighway.

Rather, I found Christmas just off a quiet country road near my home in Iowa.

It was a cold December morning. I do remember that. And we were huddled inside a ramshackle shed on an old farmstead about a mile from our little country church. We moms had driven our costumed children here for a Christmas pageant photo shoot. It was the coldest day of the season so far, but this was the day we’d arranged to take photos inside a makeshift stable, so we moved quickly.

Racing against the cold, we posed a shivering assembly of wee angels, shepherds and two reticent teenagers—Mary and Joseph—near the crèche.

Our boys were dressed in old bed-sheets, and our girls wore glittery wings pinned to the backs of white dresses. One shepherd insisted on holding a blue Matchbox car, and we could see the words on my daughter’s sweatshirt peeking through her stained, white gown.

We shivered, under the bite of a 15-degree day. We had to hurry before the three-year-olds in threadbare bed sheets lost patience, or turned blue. We posed our children, and gave orders for them to pleeeee-ase stand still so we could all go home soon.

And right then and there—in a rickety old shed, on a blustery December day—it happened: Christmas showed up.

It was that sort of moment when you forget about the bitter cold; when sunlight streams in perfectly to lighten up dark corners; when flaws and stains don’t seem so big anymore; when you discover that peace can enter unexpectedly, and life’s burdens seem lighter, and you forget—all at once—the ugly rancor of the world around you.

This is Christmas.

It was there, close to gritty Iowa dirt, where I watched as Christmas made its entrance—simple and unadorned when the nativity came to life in a ramshackle barn.


And for me, that’s the way Christmas always shows up, in the unadorned places.

Maybe it’s because I grew up in a farming community. Maybe it’s because I’ve always brushed closest to Heaven in places where I could dig toes into farm dirt.

But even if you’re living in the city, you might know what I mean. Because as children of God, we’re formed from dust. Our Savior was born in a barn, of all places.

For many of us—city and country folks alike—our pasts are rooted in rural places. And, as each Christmas draws near, we long to return to traditions that were born in simpler times.

It looks and sounds and feels like this:

Re-sewn bed-sheets on four-foot-tall shepherds; brown-paper goody-bags full of peanuts and fruit; a pillow-enhanced neighbor who plays Santa at the Kiwanis Pancake Feed; Christmas carolers harmonizing in the hallways of the local nursing home; darkened sanctuaries full of old friends who, under tall steeples, hold candles and sing “Silent Night” with the fresh sting of tears in their eyes.

Christmas grew from seeds of simplicity, not in palaces or high-rises. So, then, we find hope descending on an uncomplicated place like a rundown barn during a Christmas photo-shoot.

That’s where I found Christmas that year, anyhow—simply and unexpectedly in a ramshackle shed on a cold December day. No blinking lights or fancy wrapping or four-star accommodations. I huddled under that roof, feet tethered to Earth, while brushing up against the hope of something bigger than myself.



Hey Tell His Story crew! It is a joy to gather here every week with you. The linkup goes live each Tuesday at 4 p.m. (CT). If you would use the badge on your blog, found here, that would be great! And if you would visit at least one other blogger in the link-up and encourage them with a comment, that would be beautiful! Be sure to check the sidebar later. I’ll be featuring one of you over there!

Our featured writer this week is Sarah Frazer. If you need a little bit of hope this Christmas season, Sarah’s words will be an encouragement to you. Find Sarah here.

To be considered as our featured writer, be sure to use our badge or a link to my blog from your post. xo Jennifer

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by | December 19, 2016 | 8 comments


  1. Martha Orlando

    Beautiful recollection, Jennifer! Christmas is often wrapped up in the simplest of experiences and pleasures. May your Christmas be as lovely as what you’ve written here.

  2. Susan

    Might Christmas be this simple!!! Love & Prayers for Phil. xo

  3. Mary

    Thank you for this beautiful Christmas memory. Merry Christmas, Jennifer!

  4. Lisa Appelo @True and Faithful

    This reminds me of a friend with young children who stages a live nativity every year, home-made costumes, doll and all. What a sweet witness to neighbors driving by!

  5. Angela Howard

    Such a sweet picture of welcoming Christmas into our hearts amid the simple offerings of children. Thank for sharing the memory. It makes me think of the year my daughter was an angel in the Christmas pageant at church. We just dusted off the dress for her cousins to use when they come for Christmas Day. All the little girls will present the Christmas story, complete with costumes.

  6. Sarah Elizabeth Frazer

    Thank you so much Jennifer for sharing my post today! You are so sweet to feature my humble blog. Merry Christmas!

  7. Susan

    Jennifer, I had to linkup twice! One is YOUR cookie post from yesterday’s Tasty Tuesday and today’s post is by our granddaughter, Hannah.
    Now, for YOUR post – the barn, the children, the freezing temps…THAT is where the Spirit of Christmas is always found. In the hay. In the stench of our lives – HE COMES. I love Him so. xo

  8. Meghan Weyerbacher

    Loved reading this story, Jennifer. Commenting late, had it pulled up all night and day! When He shows up it always amazing. These pictures/memories are priceless. Blessings to you and yours this Christmas sweet, woman of God!



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