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English: Icon of Jesus Christ

One of thousands of depictions of Christ — all of which are artists’ interpretations. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A couple of days ago, I was at the church when one of our volunteers came by. She was there to pick up a load of toys for the Angel Tree charity we’re supporting this year. With her were six teen-agers, all boys, who were ready to help.

As we carried bags out to the trailer, the young man in front of turned around and walked backwards, dragging his bag behind him and in front of me. He looked me square in the eye and asked, “Would you know God if he appeared right in front of you?”

My answer was honest. “Probably only if God revealed Godself to me.”

“What do you mean?”

And then I told him a story about the cobbler who expected Jesus.

Once there was a poor cobbler who had a dream that Jesus was coming to visit him. The Lord bade him prepare for his arrival. The cobbler awoke the next day and began preparations. He had little food, but used the last of his flour to bake a loaf of bread. He had little comfort in his home, but he gathered the last of his kindling for a fire when his guest arrived. And he took his best pair of shoes and prepared them as a gift for his guest.

And then he began to wait.

There came a knock at the door. His guest had arrived! But when he opened the door, there was a woman, great with child. “Please sir. I haven’t eaten in days, and my baby will come soon. I must have strength for the birth. Have you any food to spare?”

Without hesitation, the cobbler went to get the loaf of bread he had prepared. “The Lord will understand,” he told himself. He gave it to the woman, who thanked him and made her way back into the streets of the town.

Some time passed. Again, a knock came from the door. At last! But when he opened the door, there was a small boy. “Please sir. My family is shivering at home and my parents are ill and we have no wood for the fire. Could you spare some kindling?”

Again, without hesitating, the cobbler gathered what he had to give it away. “Surely, the Lord will understand.” He tied the bundle and helped the boy to hoist it upon his back. He walked away with his happy burden, smiling and thanking the cobbler.

It was, by now, getting late. The cobbler was worried that he had missed the coming of the Lord in all the distractions. He was becoming distraught when another knock came from the door. Springing to his feet, he threw the door open. Alas, it was a wizened little man, twisted with age, and blue with cold. “I do not wish to trouble you, but I am journeying to the next town and have grown so cold. Would you let me warm my feet by your fire for a moment?” Looking down, the cobbler saw that the man’s feet were wrapped in rags.

He brought the man to his fireplace, apologizing that he had no fire. “But wait just a minute. I may have something better.” He went to the bench where he practiced his trade, and discovered that the only shoes that would possibly fit the old man were the special gift he had saved for the Lord. Taking a deep breath, he picked up the shoes and took them to the hearth where the man sat. The fit was perfect.

“I cannot pay for these! You must take them back!”

“There is no charge. They are a gift. Wear them in good health. Blessings upon your journey.”

With tears in his eyes, the old man resumed his journey, smiling his thanks at the cobbler until he rounded the bend and was lost to sight.

The cobbler closed his door. Darkness was falling, and he was dejected. He had begun to hope that Christ would not come. He had no bread to break. He had no kindling to lay for a fire. And his special gift was on its way to the next village.

With a tear in his eye, he went to bed.

As he dreamed, the Lord appeared again. “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”

“But Lord! I gave away that which was meant for you! And I was so looking forward to seeing you!”

“But you did see me. And those gifts which you meant for me were given to me, for I was the woman great with child. I was the little boy in need of assistance. And I was the old man upon his journey. Three times I visited you this day, and three times you greeted me with the love I have asked of you.”

By the time I finished the story, all of the boys were gathered around. Not all of them had heard the beginning of the tale, but they had all heard the end. As we resumed our task, I overheard the late-comers ask, “Dude! What did you ask him?” And the point came right out as they taught each other.

We loaded the rest of the toys onto the trailer, knowing that the gifts we were preparing for the Lord would be received by Christ, no matter what name was on the label.

Where have you seen Christ lately?

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Author: Joey Reed

Joey is married to his best friend and they live in Kentucky. Joey serves Mayfield First United Methodist Church, the Purchase District, the Memphis Annual Conference, and the world is his parish.