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Don't be afraid, and other 2019 lessons

Home Front: What's Christmas got to say about the 2019 farming season? Here's a look, from the mouths of babes.

It was a relaxing evening in December many years ago, a week or so before Christmas. We’d eaten our evening meal and the dishes were done. Now it was time for the family to relax and watch a little television.

As I recall, our TV selection was very limited due to the fact that the antenna on top of the house was able to receive only one station. Our one programming option for the evening was a news broadcast with elaboration on events of the past week.

At the beginning, the news stories were interesting enough to keep everyone’s attention, even our very young sons. The final segment, however, was much more intense and emotional than anything we had watched up to that point.

An elderly man had been outside his home when a group of teenagers stopped, got out of their car and proceeded to shout threats at him. They ultimately drove away, but not before they frightened the homeowner. As he retold the details of the event, it was obvious he felt terrorized — this time by the memories of that day. He kept repeating the words, “I was afraid! I was so afraid! I couldn’t move because I was so very afraid!”

It was a gripping account and as the broadcaster summed up the incident, our 4-year-old spoke up. “Doesn’t he know what the angels said?” His question went unanswered, so he asked again, “Doesn’t the man know what the angels said?” When both Kendra and I once again failed to answer his question, he explained: “Doesn’t he know that the angels said, ‘Don’t be afraid. Baby Jesus is born!’”

That incident occurred many years ago but obviously, we never forgot it. Fear is an interesting thing. The man in the news story was afraid the young men would physically harm him. There are other things that can cause fear in a person’s life.

Have you ever had an “almost accident” while driving? Even though it didn’t come to pass, you can still remember how your heart rate accelerated and how you gripped the steering wheel tighter. And it’s not always the possibility of physical harm that causes fear.

This past year of farming was one of the most difficult ones I have ever personally experienced. It rained and rained during the time we wanted to plant. Finally, it was dry enough to plant, and then when we wanted and needed rain, we had none. It doesn’t take a certified agronomist to realize the weather was not on the farmer’s side this year.

It’s possible many folks in agriculture felt a twinge of fear. “With such poor yields, how will I pay the cash rent I owe?” “How will I pay what I owe on my equipment?” “How am I going to make ends meet this year?”

In the midst of this Christmas season, which might be complicated by serious questions (and perhaps a little fear), our hope is that you remember what the angels said: “Don’t be afraid. Baby Jesus is born.” — Luke 2:8-12

John and Kendra Smiley farm near East Lynn, Ill. Email or visit

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