A frail man, not more than thirty, huddles in the corner of a dank freight car to keep himself warm. He nibbles on the remnants of a discarded sandwich from the trash at the local burger shop. To him, it’s a Christmas feast. He’s alone and unaware of where he is. In a dark place physically as well as mentally. He thinks back to Christmases past, when he had a home, a family, a life. Now that was gone – swept away by the need to escape reality. What could’ve been a successful life, turned sour. Out of money, alone and lost, he became a feral man without a home. He couldn’t let his thoughts go there. It was too painful. So he finishes the last bite – rubs his hands together to create enough friction to warm them – closes his eyes and sleeps to try and forget everything.
An elderly woman walks the street looking for aluminum cans she can redeem for cash. Maybe only a few cents, but enough to get her through the next day. Her fingers have grown dark and distorted from frostbite. Her hair hasn’t been washed for months. Her face is wrinkled and molded into a mask of despair. Yet, she carries on. She recalls the night she was dumpster diving and found a fifty dollar bill. It was like winning the lottery. She spent every cent the minute the liquor store opened the next day. Her days were drawing to a close. She had trouble remembering things and often got confused about where she was. She thinks about the three children she raised and the husband who loved her. She had a habit of erasing things that made her sad. The contents of the bottle seemed to numb them for a while. She pushed the grocery cart down the empty street until she came to a bridge. She’d been over this bridge many times and sometimes even stopped to watch the trains as they switched tracks below. The sounds were inviting. The clanking of metal against metal sounded like church bells in her mind. Maybe she could find rest – finally.
A young girl of fourteen also roamed the streets that night. Her anger with her family caused her to run away. She couldn’t take it anymore. The fighting, the accusations, the unbelief and lack of trust. It just wasn’t fair. She didn’t need them. She could try to find her own way, but she didn’t have a job, no money and nowhere to go. She made her way to the steps of the church. The door was opened wide, even though snow was falling and the wind was picking up. She slipped into the building unnoticed. She heard the sound of music and voices singing. It reached the center of her heart. It was Christmas Eve and the choir was preparing for the candlelight evening service. She sat in the last pew and listened, recalling her childhood Christmases. Things were so different then. Her parents didn’t argue like they did now. They spent time with her and loved her without question. What happened? Was it her fault? Was it theirs? She stared at the figure of Mary and the baby, Jesus. It was only stone and paint, but there was something about it that made her feel safe.
It was late. The streets were empty, but there was the chatter of conversation and laughter coming from within the buildings. The sky was cloudless and every star was shining brightly. The air was crisp and the wind chilled the young pregnant woman. She felt a twinge of pain and wondered if it was the beginning of labor pains.
There was no room in the inn for the young couple. The innkeeper led them to a shelter behind the inn – a place where lambs were born. It was the only place for them to stay. As her espoused husband lifted her off the donkey, he tried to assure her that everything would be all right, but it was so hard to understand – so hard to be strong. The child to be born was the Son of God, conceived by the Holy Spirit. No one believed the story. He even had his doubts until an angel explained it to him.
His heart was heavy. Here was Mary, ready to deliver her first child, and she had no place to rest her head. Joseph held her in his arms as she struggled with each contraction. He prayed the child would be born soon and without incident. He wasn’t prepared for any of this, yet he believed that God had a plan and wouldn’t leave either one of them.
At last the child was born – perfect in every way. She wrapped Him in strips of cloth and laid him in the feeding trough. As the stars gleamed above, one brighter than all the rest shone with a brilliance neither of them had ever seen. A host of angels appeared and praised this little one who had come to save the world.
He looked like any other baby. He was just an ordinary child, but there really was nothing ordinary about Him. He’d left His heavenly throne to become one of us. Emmanuel – God with us. This boy would take away the sins of the entire world – past, present and future. His hand would heal the suffering – His words would calm the depressed and anxious – His love would cover all wrongs and carry them to a wooden cross in thirty three short years.
In that lowly manger, lay the Prince of Peace, the King of Kings, Mighty Counselor and Savior of the world
Don’t run from Him. He has chosen you and me to be part of His kingdom. We hold a place of honor in His heart. We’ve already been made His heirs. No matter how difficult things are – no matter how bleak things look – no matter how hopeless life seems – He’s already chosen you and me. He’s waiting for us to come to Him. He has a room reserved for each one of us.