That same year (2008) that God used someone to bless us with all of those gifts that were left on our doorstep, we had another encounter that I know was from Him. To be honest I don’t remember if it was before or after the gifts arrived, but it was another surprise on those same steps – this time in the form of a young man needing help. It was about 5 o’clock or so in the evening, and we were rushing around the house getting ready to leave as we had to be at the church at 5:3o to practice for the Christmas program and we didn’t really have any time to spare. That is when the knock came at our door.
Now, you’ve got to understand that house we lived in… it’s pretty far out of town, and it was way back off the road. Nobody would just randomly select our house to stop at, which is what made the knock on our door that night so strange. I went to the door to find a young man in his early 20’s, looking a bit ragged and with kind of a desperate look on his face. When I asked him how I could help, he told me that his car had broken down about a half mile up the road and that he was looking for someone to give him a ride home. To be honest, I didn’t trust him at first because in the half mile walk from where he said his car was he passed a lot of houses that were actually right on the road. I started to tell him how we were very busy and getting ready to go to the church because we were in charge of the play that year and we had practice in less than half an hour. That’s when he told me his urgency… his girlfriend was pregnant and had called him to say that she thought she was going into labor, and that he needed to get home quick.
OK, at that point my heart went out to the guy. Remember, I’m a father of four and I remember the panicked rushes off to the hospital when it “was time”. So, I told him I’d be right back, left him on the step and then went and told my wife that I was giving a guy a ride up the road… and that if I didn’t get back in 30 minutes to call the police. Hey, just being honest here – you don’t know who to trust in this day and age! I grabbed my keys and headed out the door. As we got into the car I asked him where he lived, and he told me an address that was probably a good 10 miles further out of town. I looked at my gas gauge… empty. I asked him to wait and told him I had to get money for gas, and then ran back inside again. Now I was really worried – did I want to bring my wallet into the car with this guy? What if he was going to rob me or something and all of this was a ploy? So, I grabbed $10 and left the wallet on my nightstand, then ran back out to the car… now we would really be late for practice.
As we were driving down the road I was making small talk with him about my experiences when each of our sons arrived, but in my mind I’m thinking, “I can’t believe I got myself into this! People will never believe this, and will think it was some lame story to cover up for being so late.” About 15 minutes later we finally arrived to what he said was the end of his street, and that I could let him off there so he wouldn’t trouble me anymore. I let him out, wished him well and a Merry Christmas, then headed back towards home. It wasn’t until I was about half-way back that the reality of what I’d just experienced hit me.
“Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:4-7)
What do you think it was like for Joseph that night they arrived in Bethlehem to find that no one had room for them… that no one had time to spare to help them out? I remember the urgency in that young man’s face and voice as I tried to give him my excuses as to why now was simply not a good time for me. I’m sure that Joseph heard his full share of them that night, too. The young man didn’t tell me if he’d stopped at any other houses along the way before reaching ours, but like I said there were plenty of them to choose from and I’m sure from how urgent the situation was, he had stopped at at least a few.
As I drove home in silence, tears began to fill my eyes. I couldn’t believe how stupid I was, and how I almost missed out on being a blessing to someone who needed help. More importantly, I almost missed out on the profound glimpse into what Joseph encountered at the first Christmas that God was trying to give me. I mean, haven’t you ever wondered… God knew how crowded it would be in Bethlehem that night. The reality is that this was HIS son, and don’t you think that He could have arranged for a room for them at the Inn that night? The BEST room? But, that is not what God chose for His own Son (or for Joseph and Mary)… instead He chose the most humble of places… a barn.
The program we wrote that year was called “The God You’re Looking For”, and it’s whole message was how Jesus came as the very real, very human answer to the world’s problems and questions. In the printed program there were a few paragraphs of line that were taken from the narrator’s script, part of which read:
God had come near. And the most amazing thing about this story? He is STILL near today! If we would only open our eyes… we would see Him. If we would just LISTEN… then we would hear His voice calling our name.
The irony of it all is that I almost missed out on being a PART of the Christmas story because I was too focused on not being late to practice where we would simply TELL the Christmas story. I am so thankful for that encounter, because God was allowing me to say yes when He came knocking at MY door.