Stories Forever Loved

Do you have a favorite Christmas story?  (Other than the best of all as told in Luke 2) Maybe yours is the timeless “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens; or is it “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry, or maybe “The Nutcracker” or perhaps “The Greatest Gift,” the story that was the basis for the all-time favorite Christmas movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

It’s a tough decision, isn’t it?  I know there are many other stories that could be mentioned, and the re-telling of these old-time favorites to this generation and the next assures the perpetuation of them for the years to come.  So, in keeping with my desire that my grandchildren and hopefully theirs will pass these delightful seasonal narratives on, I want to share with you one of my favorites, a story originally written by Leo Tolstoy under the title “Where Love Is,” and adapted by one of America’s great poets, Edwin Markham and told by him under the title “The Shoemaker’s Dream.”  It is about a Shoemaker, Martin, who suffered a devastating series of tragedies, including the loss of his wife and several children.  During this time a missionary visited Martin and encouraged him to devote himself to seeking God, leaving with him a copy of the New Testament.  One ensuing night, Martin fell asleep reading the gospel of Matthew.  Here’s what happened:

“One night the cobbler dreamed that the next day Jesus was coming to visit him.  The dream seemed so real that he got up early the next morning and hurried to the woods, where he gathered green boughs to decorate his shop for the arrival of so great a Guest.

He waited all morning, but to his disappointment, his shop remained quiet, except for an old man who limped up to the door asking to come in for a few minutes of warmth.  While the man was resting, the cobbler noticed that the old fellow’s shoes were worn through.  Touched, the cobbler took a new pair from his shelves and saw to it that the stranger was wearing them as he went on his way.

Throughout the afternoon the cobbler waited, but his only visitor was an elderly woman.  He had seen her struggling under a heavy load of firewood, and he invited her, too, into his shop to rest.  Then he discovered that for two days she had had nothing to eat; he saw to it that she had a nourishing meal before she went on her way.

As the night began to fall, the cobbler heard a child crying outside the door.  The child was lost and afraid.  The cobbler went out, soothed the youngster’s tears, and with the little hand in his, took the child home.

When he returned, the cobbler was sad.  He was convinced that while he had been away, he had missed the visit of his Lord. Now he lived through the moments as he had imagined them:  the knock, the latch lifted, the radiant face, the offered cup.  He would have kissed the hands where the nails had been, washed the feet where the spikes had entered.  Then the Lord would have sat and talked with him.

In his anguish, the cobbler cried out, ‘Why is it Lord, that your feet delay?  Have you forgotten that this was the day?’  Then, soft in the silence a voice was heard:

Lift up your heart for I kept My word.  Three times I came to your friendly door; Three times My shadow was on your floor.  I was the man with the bruised feet; I was the woman you gave to eat; I was the child on the homeless street.’”

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matt. 25.40)

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