The Christmas Guest

The Christmas Guest

It happened one day at the year’s white end,

Two neighbors called on an old-time friend

And they found his shop so meager and mean,

Made merry with a thousand boughs of green,

And comrade was sitting with face a-shine

When he suddenly stopped as he stitched a twine

And said, “Old friends, at dawn today,

When the cock was crowing the night away,

The Lord appeared in a dream to me

And said, ‘I am coming your guest to be.’

So I’ve been busy with feet astir,

Strewing my with branches of fir,

The table is spread and the kettle is shined

And over the rafters the holly is twined,

And now I will wait for my Lord to appear

And listen closely so I will hear

His step as He nears my humble place,

And I open the door and look in His face.”

So his friends went home and left Conrad alone,

For this was the happiest day he had known,

For, long since, his family had passed away

And Conrad has spent a sad Christmas day.

But he knew that the Lord as his Christmas guest

This Christmas would be the dearest and best,

And he listened with only joy in his heart.

And with every sound he would rise with a start

And look for the Lord to be standing there

In answer to his earnest prayer

So he ran to the window after hearing a sound,

But all that he saw on the snow covered ground

Was a shabby beggar whose shoes were torn

 

And all of his clothes were ragged and worn.

So Conrad was touched and went to the door

And he said, “your feet must be frozen and sore,

And I have some shoes in my shop for you

And a coat that will keep you warmer, too.”

So with grateful heart the man went away,

But as Conrad noticed the time of day

He wondered what made the dear Lord so late

And how much longer he’d have to wait,

When he heard a knock and ran to the door,

But it was only a stranger once more,

A bent, old crone with a shawl of black,

A bundle of kindling on her back.

She asked for only a place to rest,

But that was reserved for Conrad’s Great Guest.

But her voice seemed to plead, “don’t send me away

Let me rest awhile on Christmas day.”

So Conrad brewed her a steaming cup

And told her to sit at the table and sip.

But after she left he was filled with dismay

For he saw that the hours were passing away

And the Lord had not come as He said He would,

And Conrad felt sure he had misunderstood.

When out of the stillness he heard a cry,

“Please help me and tell me where am I.”

So again he opened his friendly door

And stood disappointed as twice before,

It was only a child who had wandered away

And was lost from her family on Christmas Day.

Again Conrad’s heart was heavy and sad,

But he knew he should make this little child glad,

So he called her in and wiped her tears

And quieted her childish fears.

Then he led her back home once more

But as he entered his own darkened door,

He knew that the Lord was not coming today

For the hours of Christmas had passed away.

So he went to his room and knelt down to pray

And he said, “Dear Lord, why did you delay?

What kept You from coming to call on me,

For I wanted so much your face to see.”

When soft in the silence a voice he heard,

“Lift up your head, for I kept My word –

Three times my shadow crossed your floor

– Three times I came to your lonely door –

For I was the beggar with bruised, cold feet,

I was the woman you gave to eat,

And I was the child on the homeless street.

Three times I knocked and three times I came in,

And each time I found the warmth of a friend.

Of all the gifts, love is the best,

And I was honored to be your Christmas Guest.

 

~ by Helen Steiner Rice

christmas present

 

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