MAX & THE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS
Many years ago on a cold winter day, I stepped out of the back door of our house to trudge through the snow and bitter cold to go and get something from our old shed on the back edge of our property. As I stepped past our dog house just outside the back steps, a large unknown dog jumped out of the meager shelter and shot right between my legs! I don’t know who was more startled me, or the stray dog, but at least one of us had to change his shorts!
After calming the unexpected cardiac arrest, I watched the dog run out into the bitter cold and crawl under our old dilapidated pick-up truck near the shed and figured I would never see him again. But a few days later nearly the same thing happened again! There was this skinny starving hound dog hiding out in our dog house, trying to find some measure of warmth from the freezing winter chill.
My wife took pity on the poor dog and put out some bowls of warm water and dog food on the back steps. And such began our family’s association with the dog we would come to call “Max”. He was a breed called a “Treeing Walker Coonhound”.
After several days of feeding and giving him fresh water every time it would freeze solid, our family began trying to approach him. But every time anyone got near him he would run away in panic and fear. It was sad. It became obvious that somebody had abused him and he was nervous and afraid of everything all the time.
I’m going to skip ahead in this story for a moment and then will come back to this tentative canine companionship towards the end.
Max was hilarious as he gradually adjusted to our company. Once my wife tried leaving the back door open and so he could feel the warmth inside, and she placed his food dish just a little ways into the back room of the house. As we stood far away and watched him through the open door, he tentatively came up the steps, but stopped his feet at the threshold. He leaned in as far as could, neck stretched out like an ostrich, until he could finally grab the edge of the food dish in his mouth and then quickly drug it outside to consume his meal!
Eventually, after nearly 3 months of living out in the cold, he adapted and became a part of our family. It was an amazing transformation to watch, as his paranoia would cause him to hide in the corner of the room...
gradually changed through the warmth and love of our family into a dog that was at peace and happiness and learned to live life to its fullest.
There was nothing more sweet than watching him run with our boys on a hike with his tail wagging in ecstasy…
Or snuggle with them or our other dog as they lay on the floor.
He was a beautiful animal and shared many adventures with us throughout the coming years that followed.
You might notice another small scruffy dog in some of these pictures I am posting. That dog’s name was “Shala”. She was cute as a button, but her name was short from the Biblical verse in Isaiah 8:1, “Maher-Shalal-hash-baz”, which means, “Destruction is imminent.”
And believe me; she lived up to the name! But she is another story altogether which I won’t get into today!
With Max, I think it was because of the emotional journey that he went through (along with us) from that of being neglected and abused, to realize the peace, love and happiness that life can provide, that we grew so close and attached to him. I do not believe it was by chance that he was led into our yard and became a part of our existence.
When he suddenly passed away a few years later, he left a deep hole in our lives that has never been completely filled with the passing of time or other canine companions.
Our solace comes in knowing that he now runs forever free from his psychological demons in his new divine abode. I for one believe that loving dogs like Max, all go to Heaven!
In fact, even as I am writing this blog and scanning through his old pictures it is with mixed tears of both joy and sadness. His emotional journey has changed me and our family, and has given us a different insight into abuse in its many forms which is rampant among society today, as well as the truly healing power of Love when it is given and received unconditionally.
But now I would like to revert back to an earlier part of the story, which conveys the main message I want to share with you today.
It was back in those first tenuous days as Max hunkered around our back yard in fear and ran away in terror every time we stepped outside. There was one moment when I watched him through the window from inside the warmth of my home and I remember thinking, “If only I could become a dog like him for a short period of time… then perhaps I could convince him that I am his friend, and convince him to come into the warmth and love we have to offer him where we dwell.”
As these thoughts ran through my mind on that snowy December day, the Spirit touched my heart and brought a startling truth and understanding, “That is why the Savior did it! That is why he descended from His heavenly abode and came down among us! That is why a divine God and Creator would condescend from His throne on high and be born in a lowly stable!”
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ came down so that He could be like us, and show us the way, and try to convince us of the reality of the love and warmth we can share with Him if we will but follow Him, and come unto Him... So that we can be transformed by the power of His love and dwell in the peace and happiness He has to offer all of us!
That is why we celebrate the babe born in Bethlehem and call Him our King, Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace! THAT IS THE TRUE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS!!!
Thank you Max, for helping teach me and all of us that profound and eternal message!