Every fortnight people from a farming background, or who have a heart for the countryside, offer a personal reflection on faith and rural life. They hope that you will be encouraged by it.
It’s true that children are a real blessing, but I think that is especially true for farming families.
Sure, there are the playtimes, the family holidays, the first days at school, which are a delight for all parents. But to a farming family, children provide something extra, the opportunity to pass on skills and knowledge, skills in stockmanship or crop husbandry for example, skills that were passed to you by your father and his father before him. And of course, there is the hope that when old enough, at least one child will want to put these skills into practice by taking on the farm and keeping it in the family for another generation.
Our firstborn, Edward, was born to a mixture of relief, excitement and dread for what lay ahead. Now a healthy three year-old, I’m delighted to say he is already a keen farmer. The miniature toy herd seems to grow every month with the arrival of yet more cows, and the existing cubicle shed is already at capacity. Not surprisingly, ‘plans’ to extend the farm have been submitted for ‘permission.’ Contract deadline: 25th December 2017.
Sadly, the statistics testify that farms are dangerous places. As much as he enjoys going to the farm to help out with the cattle and sheep, it’s a struggle to find the right balance between encouraging his interest in farming, yet keeping him safe from harm. Accidents do happen, and where children are involved, they can be devastating.
It’s hard to imagine that any parent would deliberately put their child in serious danger. So why then would a loving God stand back and allow His only Son to enter this world to later suffer excruciating torture and the most humiliating death imaginable?
The answer: because He is a loving God. It’s almost beyond human comprehension, but such is God’s unfailing and abounding love for us all, that He was willing to sacrifice His Son – His One and Only Son - as the once-and-for-all solution to the scourge of human sin. The hymn writer, Cecil Frances Alexander, explained it clearly in her well-known hymn when she wrote, ‘There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin; He only could unlock the gates of Heaven and let us in.’
The scene of a baby boy in a manger, watched over by doting parents, will adorn many cards this festive season. But the real Love of Christmas is more than that shown by Mary and Joseph. The Love of Christmas is a holy God becoming man, fulfilling His long-promised plan of salvation, which would be offered to all mankind. Fully human, Jesus felt the unimaginable anguish and suffering of the cross, yet fully God, He was in complete control – like Father, like Son. It was all part of His plan – ‘that the world through him might be saved’ (John 3:17).
Love did indeed come down at Christmas, and the gift of God’s love is offered to everyone. Whatever your ‘plans’ for this Christmas may include, my prayer is that you will take time to unwrap the greatest gift, by accepting Jesus as your Saviour, and experience His unfailing love for yourself.
Ronald Annett works for a local animal feed company and helps out on the family farm in the shadow of the Mourne Mountains. He is a member of Mourne Presbyterian Church in Kilkeel, County Down.
If you would like to talk to someone about any of the subjects raised in this article, please email Rev. Kenny Hanna at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him on 028 9753 1234.