This morning, there was so much sleet and ice that Mark and I and my sister and her husband all stayed home from church. But this evening, I was committed to read a story I’d written at my church’s Christmas Eve service, so in spite of falling snow, Mark and I went. Here is the story I wrote:
By Denise Fuller
There’s an old Christmas legend that goes something like this:
One Christmas morning an old man woke up to a voice whispering very near his ear, telling him that Christ was going to come and visit him that very day. He quickly got up and dressed and began cleaning his house. There was a knock at the door and when he answered, there was a beggar asking for money.
“Go away,” said the old man. “Can’t you see I’m busy? I have to clean my house because Christ is coming to visit today.” The beggar left looking forlorn.
When the house was all clean, the old man began preparing a delicious feast for Christ. He was in the middle of kneading dough for bread when there was a knock at the door. Opening the door, the old man saw a hungry child who asked if he had any food to spare, but he only said, “Go away! I’m fixing this food for Christ. He’s coming to visit today.”
Once the food was prepared, the old man built a fire in his fireplace and sat to wait for Christ. There was a knock on the door and he ran expectantly to answer in case it should be Christ, but it was only an old woman in a thin shawl asking if she could come in and get warm. He sent her away too because there was only room enough at his fire for Christ and him.
The old man sat and waited and waited until midnight and then, sadly, went to bed. “Christ,” he prayed. “I thought You said You were going to come and visit today. Why didn’t You come?”
“I came to you three times,” said a voice very near his ear, “and each time you sent me away.”
The following is a true story:
My husband, Mark, and I are Workampers, which means we live in our RV and travel around the country from job to job. Our winter job in 2014 was as Christmas tree lot operators in Kerrville, Texas. I signed us up for the job because I thought it would be fun: the smell of the trees, Christmas music, and happy families picking out their favorite tree! Two days after we started working with the trees, we lost the ability to smell them. Not long after we opened to the public, we grew sick of Christmas carols. Families came in and fought over which tree they wanted, and the father groused at us about the price of the trees while he was paying for his. We worked from 8:00 in the morning till midnight or 1:00 7 days a week with no breaks and our bosses weren’t satisfied with our work. Every time our employees did a poor job or didn’t come to work when they were supposed to, we got blamed. We hadn’t had time to shop for each other, we weren’t going to make it to a Christmas Eve service, and even on Christmas Day we were expected to go to a company dinner to hear speeches about how sales had gone this season. Christmas, my favorite holiday, was going to be ruined. I was beginning to feel like Scrooge.
The day before Christmas Eve was bitterly cold with heavy winds that blew through our tent. Our boss told us to mark all our trees and wreaths down to half price, and even at that people tried to get us to let them have a tree for less. At some point during the day a couple walked in. The man was blind in one eye and they both looked pretty hard up. The first thing the man said to me was, “We’ve had a bad year. We’re hoping you have a small tree.” I showed them our only table top tree which was a flocked Noble fir, and at half price it was $25, but that was obviously too much for them and they left, looking rather dejected.
Not long after they left I realized that we had a couple Grands out back that our boss said we could sell for $10 because these trees didn’t look as healthy. In fact, they had taken the trees off our books. Then I remembered that I had a bunch of Dairy Queen coupons I had gotten for our employees, who didn’t want them, and I could have given them to the couple as well. And someone brought in a fifty year old stand and told us to give it to someone. It was a pretty cool looking stand, ingenious in its design. Why hadn’t I thought of all this while the couple was here? I realized I had become jaded doing this job and I thought of the Christmas legend of Christ visiting in disguise.
I was terribly upset with myself. “O Lord,” I prayed, “please, either send that couple back, or someone in similar circumstances. I promise to do better at recognizing You when You come again.” I walked outside and looked up and down the sidewalk, hoping to see the couple, but they were gone. I watched and waited by the tent door in case they walked back our way later, but they didn’t. I felt sick about it. There were other customers, but they payed for what they wanted and left.
Then two men came in. One of them was missing an arm and the other looked a little rough around the edges. They were looking for a tree for an older friend of theirs, but they were on a budget. We showed them the two trees we were selling for $10 out back or a small, nicer tree for $22, but then they said they needed a stand as well and they were trying to figure out whether they could afford both a tree and one of our stands.
That was when my eyes were opened and I recognized Christ. I said, “I can’t make any deals on the nicer tree, but it occurs to me that these two Grands are no longer on the books; our boss took them out of circulation. I could let you have one of them for free.” Mark chimed in and told them about the old stand someone had brought in earlier in the day and said he’d let them have that for free. The two men brightened up and took one of the free trees and the stand saying, “You are helping an old man have a very Merry Christmas. Thank you!”
Be on the lookout for Christ. He sometimes wears disguises!