They’re not exactly native to this area, preferring the far more frosty mountainous areas that circumscribe the Artic. So when a full-fledged rangifer tarandus showed up for a promotion at a local fast-food restaurant yesterday, it was worth going out to see, especially since he was joined by none other than a certain red-clad Mr. and Mrs. Claus sitting on a sled on the parking lot.
His handler told me that his name was Prancer and that, just as you might expect, he was one of eight such animals back at the corral which he likewise insisted was at the North Pole, despite the cattle trailer parked nearby. He similarly said that what we call reindeer are known as caribou elsewhere in the world. Whatever name they go by, however, they are generally very docile animals, he reassured me, though the antlers would seem capable of more than just ornamentation or even self-defense.
The largest wild herd anyone knows of is halfway around the world from us here in Texas, found in Siberia and numbering somewhere between 400,000 and a million. That may also help explain why reindeer in Fort Bend County seem a bit out of place. But then lots of elements of the Christmas story seem a bit out of place as well, don’t they?
Far away from their home in Galilee, for instance, Joseph and Mary ended up ninety miles to the south where Mary gave birth to Jesus in a storage area intended for animals. (Despite the presence of a clearly unbiblical Christmas llama found in many Nativity pageants these days, we can be pretty sure at least that no reindeer were in the manger that night.)
Similarly when the shepherds showed up, they were probably not exactly who the Holy Family expected to see after the birth of their son before they even opened up their guest room for visitors. And as far as those wise men from the East, well, those guys were at least 500 miles away from where they belonged, unwittingly getting their last set of directions from an often-erratic ruler whom everybody else knew enough to try to avoid.
In short, God seems to have a way of moving folks to unplanned places to meet His eternal purposes, sometimes in the most unexpected manner imaginable. And as we get closer to Christmas itself, it may well be worth remembering that idea. For even if you’re not where you thought you might be this year, is it possible that you’re exactly where the Lord would have you? After all, if reindeer can show up in Fort Bend, what else do you suppose the Lord might do?