“Grandpa, what are those two carvings?” Ten-year old Nathanael asked, pointing to a sheep and a cross, “Are they part of an Easter display or something?”
“Not exactly” Grandpa replied, “But they do help us know more about God’s gift of salvation.”
“You mean like a Christmas present?”
Grandpa rubbed his chin for a moment before answering, “Well Nathanael, that’s one way of looking at it. Christmas… and Easter are both parts of God’s way of saving people from sin so they can be with Him in heaven. It’s like a story that has many chapters in it. God began writing His story even before He created the earth because He already knew we would need His help. The birth of Jesus that we know as Christmas is just one of those chapters. Other chapters tell us about Jesus’ life here on earth; His death, burial and resurrection; return to heaven; and how He helps us live each day until Jesus returns.
“Look over there below the screwdriver rack hanging on the wall,” Grandpa said, motioning toward the window, over there on the workbench… the whole story is written right there in that Bible.”
Nathanael saw the closed Bible Grandpa had pointed to and pondered that fact for a moment before asking, “So, the lamb and cross would be found in the Easter chapter?”
“Yes.” Grandpa responded, “But remember you really can’t have one without having the other—you can’t just have Christmas without having Easter or the other way around. Same is true for other parts of God’s plan. Otherwise it would be like tearing a whole chapter out of a book you’re reading.”
“Jesus, the Lamb of God, died for our sins instead of a sacrificial lamb, on a wooden cross,” Grandpa explained, “the sheep carving is a reminder of a lamb and the cross a reminder of how He paid for our sins… do you understand what I mean, Nathanael?
Nathanael said he did, that Jesus didn’t stay a little baby in the manager but He grew up and finished His work on earth… that is, until He comes back again.
“Exactly!” Grandpa said. “The story begins and ends with Jesus.”
Nathanael studied the carved figures again then asked, “Why does the wood look lighter for those two than it does for all the rest of the manger scene used for Christmas?”
“Because they’re carved from juniper and not from black walnut like the others.”
“Did you carve them?”
Grandpa said he had carved all but the two lighter ones and that an old shepherd friend of his carved them. Gustavo gave them to Grandpa many years ago. It was getting late, so Grandpa told Nathanael they could finish talking in the morning.
The pounding of blustery winds gradually gave way to a gentleness of falling snowflakes later overnight. Nathanael remembered sleeping soundly until his eyes opened to sunlight streaming through the window. It was Christmas Eve. Grandma was already cooking a big breakfast and Nathanael could hardly wait for it all to begin.
Grandpa finished off the last bite of a biscuit and bacon slice then leaned toward Nathanael saying, “Time to finish up last night’s story… I’ll meet you in the workshop.”
Not wanting to be left behind, Nathanael shoveled down the rest of his food shouting, “I’m right behind you, Grandpa!”
He grabbed his coat, pulled his boots on and exited the kitchen in a blur.
A well-worn path led to the workshop’s front door. Easy to find during the summer months but now it was buried beneath a foot of fresh snow. Nathanael tried to follow Grandpa’s footprints as best he could but he couldn’t match Grandpa’s lengthy strides. Down he went, plunging head-long onto the frozen blanket of snow. Stunned momentarily by the icy bath, Nathanael struggled to gain his footing and fell down again; laid there a second then got up, brushed off the worst of it and kept going—only now breaking his own fresh trail in the same direction as Grandpa’s footprints through the deep snow until reaching the workshop’s open doorway.
Before entering, Nathanael brushed off the remaining traces of his own personal snowfall, stepped out of the cold air and into the warmth of a dream come true. It had every tool imaginable for hand-crafting furniture, stringed instruments, wood sculptures and carvings; plus various types and sizes of clamps and vises; equipment for steaming and bending wood; cabinets filled with hinges, handles and hardware fasteners; abrasives of every texture; and an assortment of finishes to complete each project. Everything was neatly organized, well cared for and within easy reach from the workbenches that wrapped around much of the room. Every nook and cranny stored lumber, scraps and supplies. The pleasant scent of cedar often filled the air competing occasionally with that of freshly sawn lumber or sanded boards, both hardwoods and softwoods of endless variety—each producing distinctive aromas almost as good as Grandma’s kitchen.
“So Nathanael, do you still want to know how I came about the carvings of a lamb and a cross?”
“Okay then,” he said, “pull up that chair over there, while I build a fire in the wood stove.”
The door hinges of the old metal stove reluctantly moved with an irritating scraping noise when opening and closing the firebox door that made Nathanael grimace, as Grandpa carefully stacked some tinder and kindling inside the stove before striking a match to it. Before long, a roaring fire warmed up the whole room. Grandpa, unaffected by the heavy cold and grating noises, settled comfortably into an old gliding-style rocking chair that he had made located near the stove. In no time flat, the rocker’s back-and-forth motion propelled him right into the past as he began telling Nathanael about Gustavo, an old friend he had met during his sheepherding days.
Grandpa and Gustavo were both traveling to Shaniko, looking for work around the turn of the century when Shaniko was known as the world’s wool capital at that time.
“Did you find work, Grandpa?” Nathanael asked.
Grandpa said he did and in fact the same rancher hired both he and Gustavo since they both had some experience.
They worked together for a couple of weeks getting to know the sheep and the herding dogs. The boss, called a flock-master, split the flock into several smaller bands of sheep. He sent them off in different directions using the same pattern: grazing the grasslands near the ranch, then each working their way south through the foothills until reaching the high Ochoco mountain meadows in the hottest part of summer. Then, turning around, retracing their steps through the grasslands and returning to the ranch before winter hit. Grandpa didn’t see Gustavo again until lambing season.