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Christmas Guests

Sunday, 12.13.2009, 09:50pm (GMT-5)

Matthew Goodrich lived in the early nineteen hundreds just outside of London. He had a big Victorian-style house. He wasn’t a rich man, but he did have a nice house and made a good living.

He was eagerly waiting for his guests for Christmas. It was a tradition that his guests would come for an evening meal, and then he would invite them to stay through the holidays. Almost without exception, everyone agreed.

The first guest to arrive was Bill, an old soldier who roamed from town to town begging. Neva wasn’t far behind. She was a gypsy whose people had deserted her. Mark was a young man from the north, who had come down to find work – and hadn’t been able to find it. A man came who had been a soldier from some other country. No one was really able to understand his name, so in time everyone just called him Wayne. Finally there was Anne who was a street peddler. When Matthew found her, she was sitting underneath a hedge. Some men had stolen all of her goods, and she was sitting there trying to figure out what to do next.

All of these people were homeless. Every year without fail, Matthew went out and invited homeless people to spend Christmas with him.

It all started years before when he was reading the Christmas story. He had read it so many times, but this time something jumped out at him. It was when the innkeeper told Joseph and Mary that there was no room for them at the inn. This struck Matthew as being odd. “No room! How could that be? This couple was desperate. She was expecting a baby. How could he not have room? Surely there was some place in Bethlehem he could refer them to.” Then he thought, “How about the shepherds who came later that night? Surely one of them had a friend in town who would let them in.”

Matthew said to himself, “If I were the innkeeper, I would have done something.” Then he thought … he had seen a homeless man that day … and he felt that he didn’t have room for him in his house.

That is when he got the idea. He went into to town and looked for that man. I’m not sure if he found that very man, but still, he invited several homeless people into his home for Christmas. They had a meal, and spent the holidays with him. Every year after that, he did the same thing. The amazing thing was, in all those years, no one took undue advantage of him.

Matthew found that each year was unique in itself. The people who came eventually form into a group that had a personality of its own – unlike previous years. This particular year, Bill (the old soldier that was a beggar) had a knack for cooking. He took over the kitchen, and said he would prepare the meal. Neva and Anna started decorating. They found boxes of decorations in the attic and started fixing the place up.

Wayne’s skills lay in the area of cleaning. He found the cleaning supplies and went to work – singing songs no one had ever heard before, with words no one could understand. But no one complained as long as he was doing all the cleaning.

Mark, the young man from the north, was the bashful one. With all the hubbub going on in the house, he decided to go outside and cut wood. He put in a good supply of wood for the holidays and beyond.

It was quite a day, and finally Bill put the food on the table. The little family of homeless people gathered together and enjoyed a tremendous meal. Everyone started complimenting Bill about his cooking and how good it was. Bill was kind of embarrassed, so he started telling stories about the old days in the army. Everyone was fascinated with his stories about the war.

That was when Neva started telling about her life as a gypsy. She told the others that she knew people didn’t like gypsies, but it was a wonderful culture that was rich in traditions – even though they had deserted her. As she started to tear up, Anne went over and gave her a hug. Then she started telling how street peddlers had a culture of their own. She said, “Its true that I never thought of gypsies in a kind way, but people didn’t think of us in a kind way either.” She started to tell her stories, and finally came to the point where she was robbed.

By this time Neva and Anne were crying and feeling sorry for each other. Wayne had enough of all this depressing talk. He decided to start singing some of his national songs, and doing his traditional military dances. Everyone laughed and clapped in rhythm.

Mark, the young man from the north, didn’t say anything. He just sat off to the side and smiled from ear to ear. Everyone wondered if he had a wife back home, or what his situation was, but he was not given to telling stories about himself.

Matthew ended the evening by telling the Christmas story. Bill led the group in singing some Christmas carols. Of course Wayne had to sing some of his traditional Christmas hymns, which no one else knew. — It was all a wonderful time.

Finally, one by one, they each said good night and went up the stairs to their room. Matthew sat next to the wood fire, which was now a bed of red coals. This put him deep in thought. He relived the events of the day, and thought about each person who now slept in his house. He thought, “24 hours ago, I didn’t know any of these people. Now they are like family. I have heard their stories and have come to appreciate their unique ways and personality.”

He finally banked the fire and took his lamp and started toward the stairs to go up to his room. Suddenly he heard a loud banging on his front door. It startled him as he jerked around and looked at the door. His instinct told him not to answer it, so he turned to go up to his room.

The people outside once again knocked on the door. This time Matthew opened the door and looked out into the night. Standing there was a young man and a woman. The man said, “Sir, I know it is late, but we just arrived in town and have no place to stay. Do you have some room for us to stay just one night? Or do you know some place where we can stay?

Before he could even think about it, Matthew started to tell them exactly what the innkeeper told Joseph. “I’m sorry, but the house is full. I don’t have any …” He stopped when he realized what he was saying.

The woman gave out a moan and slumped down to the ground. Matthew could now see she was expecting a child. He stepped out and told the husband to help him get her into the house. Once she was in a big chair, Matthew ran up the stairs and got Neva and Anne. He asked them to come and care for the needs of the woman.

With all this commotion, Bill, Mark, and Wayne came out of their rooms to see what was going on. Immediately they rushed around to help. Bill went to he kitchen to fix some food for the couple. Mark ran to get some wood for the fire. Wayne was almost feminine in the way he tried to make the couple comfortable. The couple were amazed at all these people who seem to “come out of the woodwork” to help meet their needs.

Through it all, Matthew kept thinking, “In reality, I don’t have any room for this couple.” Suddenly he felt a little more sympathetic for the innkeeper. Then he had an idea. He called Neva over and whispered something into her ear. She smiled and grabbed Wayne. The two of them went up the stairs. After awhile, Matthew told the couple that it was time for them to go up to their room. He asked the husband to help him get his wife up the stairs. He said, “You will be more comfortable up there.” Together they slowly helped her climb the stairs.

When they got there, Matthew took them to his room. Neva and Wayne had gotten everything ready for them. Neva and Anne helped the woman into the bed.

Neva talked a little to the husband, and then went out in the hall. She said to Matthew, “She will deliver her child tonight. But don’t worry. I have had children of my own, and have helped other deliver theirs. I have told the husband to call me when it’s ready. Anne will help, and everything will be all right. You don’t have to worry about anything.”

It was true. The woman delivered a baby girl that night.

Matthew went down to the kitchen to make sure everything was in order. He stood there thinking about the innkeeper – not having room. It was still true. They didn’t have room, but now they didn’t have room for him! He had no place to stay.

He went out into the living room – to a big old chair, to see if he could make himself comfortable there. But he knew that wouldn’t work. As he sat there he thought, “You know, a stable would be nice right now. It’s too bad I don’t have one.”

Then he thought, “The closest thing I have to a stable is the attic. I could go up there and maybe find a place to sleep.”

So, he went back up to the second floor and on up the stairs that led to the attic. With his lantern, he could see all the old furniture sitting around, and the boxes filled with stuff. There was dust everywhere, but he didn’t mind.

He found some cushions and put them on the floor to make a bed. He turned the lantern down low and set it to the side. Then he settled down on his makeshift bed, and found that it was really quite comfortable.

He lay there thinking about the stable. As he looked around, he could easily imagine that he was in a stable – with the wooden rafters and junk sitting around. The dark shadows could be animals – with a little imagination.

Then he laughed. “Isn’t this a turn of events. The innkeeper is staying in the stable! The couple had his room.”

As he looked, he suddenly saw a hole in the roof. Being a practical man, he said, “I will have to get that fixed.” Then as he adjusted himself, he saw a lone star barely shinning through the hole. “Not only do I have my own stable, but now I have my own Christmas star. Probably not as nice as the one on the first Christmas, but it’s mine.”

Having his own star made him relax. Just before he went to sleep, he heard a voice coming from deep inside him. “Even as you have done it unto the least of these,” the Lord said, “You have done it unto me.”



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