By Rev. Garrett Andrew
I once heard a story about a young boy who stood outside a store looking through the widow. A woman walked by and saw the tattered clothes and dirty fingers of the child that gave away his poverty. She saw him looking in and said, “What are you looking at in there?”
“Oh ma’am, I’m sorry to disturb, but I am looking at the shoes.” He turned back around and peered through the window. The woman looked down and saw that his feet could be seen through the holes in the shoes he wore. It was cold out and she experienced that tinge of pity and mercy that we all know because we have all felt that moment when we want to do something for someone who needs help. Her heart stirred and it would not be quieted.
“Come with me little boy,” she said to him. And she took his hand and took him into the store. Some people gave weird stares in their direction, the stares of disapproval or distaste, or some combination of both. She took him to where the shoes were and took off his beat up shoes, measured his feet, found him the nicest pair of shoes she could find, put new socks on his feet and then tied the shoes for him. “How’s that feel?” she asked him.
The boy looked up at her and said, “Are you an angel?” Words could not come to her when she heard that question. The boy kept on, “Oh I’m sorry maybe you can’t say. Of course you are an angel, because I was just praying that an angel would help me get a pair of shoes.”
Charity increases at this time of year. It cannot be any other way really. Many recall the gift that God has given them in their need, and in turn they realize they can give to others in need too. People come out and volunteer more hours in December than other months. It feels good, and it is good, and at this time of year, well, if not at Christmas then when?
And those poor and sad souls are easier to see. People who drive right by need and pain in the course of the year find their eyes cannot ignore such things as easily. The Christmas spirit takes hold and even those with the hardest of hearts find them somewhat softened.
A friend once asked me what about this time of year made people more inclined to help others. Honestly I think it has do with God. It is easy to ignore the hurting and destitute. They exist in the shadows of society, in the back alleys where we would never go, and in the seedy places we rarely consider. We come into our churches and we worship God and we try to focus on God and give God all the praise we can muster. So what does God do? God shows up in the shadows, born in them so that we must look for God there. Jesus was born to an unwed teenage mother, what kind of God would show up there? A God who wants us to look in the shadows perhaps. Jesus was born in filth, far away from the nurses and doctors of our society who help ensure the heath and safety of mother and child, what kind of God would show up there? A God who wants us to look at the filthy perhaps. Jesus was scandalously born in poverty and obscurity, what kind of God would do such a thing? A God who wants to redeem the world perhaps. The only way to redeem the world is to enter the worst places of the world. That is what the birth of Jesus teaches us, and maybe that is why we want to help others more at this time of year, because we know that God would help them too.
So there was a little boy who stood peering into a window outside a store. He claimed he met an angel. The woman claimed she met God. Maybe they were both right.