On Christmas Eve Rose was surprised to find a letter in her mail box, with no stamp or postmark; just her name and address. Surprise turned to shock when she read it;
I shall be in your area this Christmas and would like to stop by for a visit.
Rose’s hands were shaking as she wondered, “Why would the Lord visit me? I’m nobody special.” Then she realised she had no food; nothing to offer her guest and the shops would soon be closing. With her last five dollars she rushed out and was soon on her way back with a loaf of bread, some sliced turkey and a carton of milk!
Then she heard a voice calling out, “Hey lady, can you help us?”
A man and a woman were huddled in an alleyway, dirty, smelly and dressed in rags. “I ain’t got a job” he continued, and my wife and I have been living on the street. Now it’s getting cold and we’re hungry. It’s Christmas Eve lady, and if you can help us we’d be most grateful.”
Peering into the alleyway Rose explained, “I’d like to help but I’m a poor woman myself. All I have is a few slices of turkey and some bread, and I’m expecting an important guest for dinner.”
“Yeah, well okay lady, I understand. Thanks anyway!” said the man, putting his arm around the woman’s shoulder and heading back into the dark alley, as the snow began to fall.
Rose’s heart followed them and she called out, “Sir, wait.”
The couple stopped and turned as she ran into the alley after them. “Look, take this food. I’ll figure out something else for my guest.”
As she handed the man her shopping bag she noticed that the woman was heavily pregnant and shivering from the cold. “I’ve got another coat at home,” she said. “Look, why don’t you take this one.” She unbuttoned her jacket and placed it over the woman’s shoulders.
Then she headed for home, with the voices of the couple following her, “Thank you very much lady and Merry Christmas!”
As Rose opened her door she saw another letter in her mailbox. Opening it hurriedly she read, “Dear Rose,
It was so good to see you again. Thank you for the lovely Christmas dinner, and also for the beautiful coat!
It’s only a simple story! The parables of Jesus were also ‘only stories’ but carried profound and disturbing messages! Christmas is more than about cards, trees, decorations, presents, dinners or even cribs and churches, all very good in their own way. It is about love and giving; about a baby born in a manger to teach us lessons we find very difficult to learn. It is about God taking flesh, teaching us that it is there, in human flesh that we shall find him, always with us.
Jesus himself would later emphasise this truth with frightening force as he proclaimed, “When I was hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, in prison”, you served me. “Whenever you did this for one of the least important followers of mine you did it for me” (Mt 25:31-46). If we don’t find him there we won’t really find him at all.
Could we this Christmas invite a homeless person, a poor or lonely person to our Christmas dinner? Could we pledge to support a worthy cause, like the Society of St Vincent de Paul or the Cheshire Home, or the Pro-Life Movement so that it may enable other babies to be born? Are we ready, in the light of the Christmas story, to re-assess the values priorities that govern our daily lives? Will this year’s Christmas celebration make a difference, or will it just come – and go?
Bro Columba Gleeson