He was far from an imposing figure, standing there beside the dumpster; gaunt, rather ragged, and apparently down on his luck. I had glimpsed him first out in back of the apartment complex and finally dared to observe aloud, from a comfortable distance, that the weather was colder than usual, to which he heartily agreed. It was not common to see someone scrounging around near the garbage cans so late in the evening, and recent reports of identity theft lent some bravado to my curiosity. His manner, as I thought about it, seemed unexpectedly out-going, even amicable, so I ventured again, asking how life had been treating him; in the mood to hear a hard luck story or two at this juncture, my own life was proceeding easily enough. Gifts were all bought, the larder was full; the season was well in hand.
The lean and lanky stranger indicated that his condition was about as it had been for a long time. He explained that his present quest was for extra food and clothing which might be given to needy folks round about. The pickings are good here, he said, and added that it had been so very much worse recently in places like Sri Lanka, Africa, Pakistan, Florida, or New Orleans. Have you really been to those places I asked in surprise? That’s my job, he said, I visit people down on their luck and offer condolences, words of hope and of course, help wherever I can. But what kind of job is that? I asked, and added gratuitously that the working conditions must surely be grubby and hard. Well, he said, that is the way poor people have to live, and so do I--some have lost their jobs, their houses, some are still living in barns along with the cattle—and by the way, are you going to be giving something for the less fortunate ones this year? On hearing this I froze up a bit, inwardly at least, as that familiar old pitch for a hand-out was sure to follow. The man then remarked: In the past I have had easier jobs, but this is today. His form in the late evening gloom had begun, oddly, to take on a sort of glow, lighting the dark spaces around him. You see, he went on, once I was just a simple shepherd—now I am a messenger of the Lord, and my work is to show the light to a dark world. But what is that light, I stammered, beginning to think I might have a madman on my hands. The News, he responded, the Good News found in The Word! Many have yet to see the light. My companions and I first saw it so very long ago, a bright star high above a hillside, and I have been journeying ever since to tell the story. Mostly I talk to people who are to be greatly blessed, but as long as I’m here I may as well tell you, too. Unto us a child is born…
And all you dear ones know the rest of the story, so it is Merry Christmas to each of you once again—and Love, Always.
"Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it." -- Hebrews 13: 1,2