Dear Shepherdess: Christmas is a time for reflecting on the special happinesses of the year. For me, happiness has been meeting so many of you this past summer. Happiness has been seeing you finding joy in serving the Christ whose birth we celebrate at this time of the year. You have given of yourselves unstintingly in Vacation Bible Schools, in the various children's divisions at camp meetings, and in sharing your musical talents in public meetings, besides the multitude of unseen responsibilities each of you carries. I admire you and thank God for your dedication.
On our visit to the Wisconsin camp meeting in late summer we discovered that the principal of Wisconsin Academy is a woman—a very efficient leader, as the well-kept campus and new auditorium testified. Then at Camp Berkshire in New York, where the beautiful hydrangeas blossom in all their glory, I met with the ladies twice a day while the husbands were involved in their meeting. What a joy it was to join in prayer for the Holy Spirit to be poured out on that metropolitan conference!
Now the holidays are here again. Elder and Mrs. A. A. Esteb are making their home in Virginia, where he writes a weekly feature, ' "The Poet's Corner, "for the local newspaper. This month I want to share with you a poem of his, "The Christmas Friend," and also a story titled "No Room," from the Arizona Shepherdess News.
May God keep and bless you, dear friends, and may you have a wonderful Christmas. With love, Kay.
The Christmas friend
A week before Christmas the noisy street
Was crowded with shoppers on fleeting feet.
The money flowed freely—an endless stream—
And much of it spent to fulfill some dream.
A store clerk observed one poor little girl
Admiring a doll with its golden curl.
The mother stood by, in her faded dress,
Her face was a picture of deep distress.
The daughter, of course, could not understand,
But trustingly held mother's work-worn hand.
She looked at the clerk with childish charms,
Said, "Please, may I hold it just once in my arms?"
The saleslady reached for the doll and smiled
At the wide-eyed wonder of that little child,
Who pressed the doll to her happy heart In a moving moment of matchless art. The mother then turned to the girl and said
"Let's put the doll back in its beautiful bed."
They did not observe the saleslady's glance
At a man who stood in a casual stance
At the end of the counter, who gave a nod.
And, then, to the mother it seemed so odd;
The clerk wrapped the gift with a pretty bow,
To the girl she gave it with her face aglow!
They hardly would trust their eyes and their ears,
And gratefully said so, with thankful tears.
When they had departed, the man then smiled,
And paid for the gift for the little child.
When he disappeared, the clerk told a friend,
"We really don't know him, but each year's end,
He comes here quite often and does the same,
And yet he has never revealed his name."
In the crowded course of earth's stress and strife,
An unseen Friend by the counter of life,
Has paid for the greatest gifts that we own;
Our Greatest Giver—is He still unknown?
Ah! Daily He stands and He smiles His nod
This unknown Friend and Great Giver is GOD!
My name is Issachar. I am an inn keeper in Bethlehem. A few days ago I had to travel to the city of Jerusalem on business for my inn. Something very unusual happened there, and I would like to tell you about it. Please listen, for it is my story, and it means more to me than anything that has happened in my entire life.
As I started to tell you, I had to travel to Jerusalem on business, and upon my arrival there, I discovered the city to be in a tremendous uproar. There was much talk and excitement; everyone was hurrying about. Someone told me that the Romans were crucifying three men. The One about whom most were talking was a man named Jesus.
They said that He was a different sort of man, that He had been going about the countryside teaching and preaching, and that He was the promised Messiah, who would redeem all Israel.
I finished my business for the day, and having a few more hours of daylight before I had to begin my journey back to Bethlehem, I went outside the city to the hill called Golgotha, which is a hill in the shape of a skull. I was interested to see why all the people were so excited, and wanted especially to see this Man, Jesus. There on the hill were three men being crucified by the Romans on three crosses. The Man in the center was Jesus, they said. But strangely, no curses came from His lips; He did not seem angry or resentful toward those who were killing Him. He was rather quiet, but when He said anything, it appeared to me to be more like a prayer than anything else.
It was a strange sight, indeed—a tragic and sad sight—to see these men being crucified. I noticed, as I stood a little back from the crowd, a small group of people gathered about the foot of the cross. Someone said that one of the women was His mother, and that her name was Mary. With her was a man and several other women, too. But there was something about this woman, Mary, that caught my attention. She seemed familiar in a remote way.
As I said before, I am an innkeeper, and it is necessary for me to know people. I always try to remember faces, for it gives my guests a warm, good feeling to return to my inn and be remembered. What was it about this Mary that was so familiar? What was it about this Man that caught my attention?
I turned to one at my side and said, "Tell me something about this Man on the cross."
The bystander said that His name was Jesus and that He was from Nazareth but had been born in Bethlehem.
"Bethlehem!" I said. "Bethlehem?"
"Yes, Bethlehem," came the reply.
"And when was He born there?" I asked.
"Let me see," said the bystander. "It was during the enrollment of Caesar Augustus. That would make Him about 32 or 33."
And then, my friends, suddenly I remembered why the mother of this Man looked familiar to me. For this woman, His mother, came to my inn one night many years ago. She was heavy with child, and she and her husband looked so tired and weary of traveling. But I had no room; my inn was filled with people who had come to Bethlehem for the enrollment. I did the best I could. I told them they could have the stable. So there they went, and there the Baby was born. I was busy with my guests and did not have much time for them, but I re member that they were not alone. I re member that some shepherds came whom I thought must be relatives. Some of the guests at the inn said the shepherds sang songs and "carried on" about something. And, of course, I thought they were just happy about the Child and were singing with joy. I didn't know.
He may come and knock on your door, just as He did on mine. Pray you do not make the same mistake I did. It was the biggest mistake of my life, and it has affected my entire existence. I must tell you something else. I did not let Him in when He came because I did not know He was coming. I wasn't looking for Him and so I just passed Him by and gave Him the stable with the feeding trough of the animals for a bed. I didn't know He was coming. If only someone had told me that Joseph and Mary were coming to Bethlehem, that the Christ Child would be born here, that angels would announce His coming! But I did not know! I had not been studying. I was not prepared.
Prayers from the Parsonage
by Cherry B. Habenicht
What I thought was a birth announcement turned out to be, instead, a printed death notice.
Kurt and Cindy waited years to have a child. Proudly they proclaimed the news of Cindy's pregnancy, each successive letter reporting that all was well. But something (the brief note gives no details) caused the baby to die three days before his birth.
Birth—without the ecstasy of life after all those months of anticipation! The words "It's a boy" without the thrill of hearing that first plaintive cry. A name— only for the records.
They write, "Only our Father in heaven knows the reasons, and we trust completely His love and guidance in our lives." Bless them! May that faith sustain them in the hard months that will follow when they must pack away sweet baby things and adjust to what may seem to be empty routines.
Don't let this couple become despondent or bitter. May they express their grief freely and be comforted by Your Spirit. If doubt undermines their confidence, remind them of Your care.
They will notice smiling, healthy babies everywhere, each a painful re minder of "our little Andy, had he lived." Please give them the courage to plan for another child, if they so choose. May they find the emotional strength to enjoy others' children without resentment.
You planned that a new life would be the result of love between man and woman. You designed the intricate system that controls and supports a developing fetus. Certainly You rejoice at the birth of a healthy child.
Are there answers for this tragedy? I don't know. Long ago You sent Your only Son to be born as a babe. Innocent, He suffered an outwardly meaningless death. I know You grieve with us and wait to welcome us to a new earth where "there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying" (Rev. 21:4).