The Unknown, Invited Guest

December 2, 2012


 Edwin Markham

Before the cathedral in grandeur rose
At Ingelburg where the Danube goes;
Before its forest of silver spire
Went airily up to the clouds and fires;
Before the oak had ready a beam,
While yet the arch was stone and dream —
There where the altar was later laid,
Conrad the cobbler, plied his trade.

It happened one day near December’s end,
Two neighbors called on an old friend.
And they found his shop so meager and lean
Made gay with thousand bows of green
And Conrad was sitting with face a-shine
When he suddenly stopped as he stitched a twine
And he said “Old friends, at dawn today,
When the cock was crowing the night away
The Lord appeared in a dream to me
And said “I’m coming your guest to be.”
So I’ve been busy with feet astir and
Strewing my shop with branches of fir.
The table is spread and the kettle is shined.
And over the rafters the holly is twined.
Now I’ll wait for my Lord to appear
And listen closely so I will hear
His step as He nears my humble place.
And I’ll open the door and look on His face.

So his friends went home and left Conrad alone
For this was the happiest day he had known,
For long since, his family had passed away
And Conrad had spent many a sad Christmas Day.
But he knew with the Lord as his Christmas Guest
This Christmas would be the dearest and best.
So he listened with only joy in his heart
And with every sound he would rise with a start
And look for the Lord to be at his door,
Like the vision he had had a few hours before.
So he ran to the window after hearing a sound
But all he could see on the snow covered ground
Was a shabby beggar whose shoes were torn
And all of his clothes were ragged and worn.
But Conrad was touched and he went to the door
And he said, “You know, your feet must be frozen and sore.
I have some shoes in my shop for you
And a coat that will keep you warmer too.”
So with grateful heart the man went away
but Conrad noticed the time of day
And wondered what made the Lord so late
And how much longer he’d have to wait.
When he heard a knock, he ran to the door
But it was only a stranger once more.
A bent old lady with a shawl of black
With a bundle of kindling piled on her back.
She asked for only a place to rest
But that was reserved for Conrad’s Great Guest.
But her voice seemed to plead “Don’t send me away,
Let me rest for awhile on Christmas Day”,
So Conrad brewed her a steaming cup
And told her to sit at the table and sup.
But after she left he was filled with dismay
For he saw that the hours were slipping away
And the Lord hadn’t come as he said he would.
Then Conrad felt sure he had misunderstood.
When out of the stillness he heard a cry
“Please help me and tell me where am I?”
So again he opened his friendly door
And stood disappointed as twice before.
It was only a child who’d wandered away
And was lost from her family on Christmas Day.
Again Conrad’s heart was heavy and sad
But he knew he should make the little girl glad.
So he called her in and he wiped her tears
And quieted all her childish fears.
Then he led her back to her home once more

But as he entered his own darkened door
he knew the Lord was not coming today.
For the hours of Christmas had passed away
So he went to his room and knelt down to pray
And he said “Dear Lord, why did you delay?
What kept you from coming to call on me?
For I wanted so much your face to see.”
When soft in the silence a voice he heard.
“Lift up your head for I kept my word.
Three times my shadow crossed your floor
And three times I came to your lonely door.
I was the beggar with bruised, cold feet
And I was the woman you gave something to eat.
I was the child on the homeless street.
Three times I knocked, and three times I came in.
And each time I found the warmth of a friend.
Of all the gifts, love is the best.
And I was honored to be your Christmas Guest.






Christmas Journey 2008 At An End

December 26, 2008

Well . . . our journey is over.  It’s my prayer you were helped by making it.  I know I enjoyed the thinking, the writing and the publishing.  May God continue to bless you.  Norm

Awesome Day

December 25, 2008

Luke 2:1-7 (New Living Translation)


Luke 2

The Birth of Jesus

 1 At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2(This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. 4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.  6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7 She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

Make room for Jesus today . . . and be prepared to do as he would do today.  However you celebrate, whoever you’re with, let Jesus shine through you!

You might forgive a friend or relative or you can apologize for a slight that’s too old and lasted way too long.

You can spend time with a family member or friend who is otherwise and often overlooked at your gathering.

You can make the obligatory phone calls to relatives and friends far away and say something with meaning and love.

There may be a prodigal in your family who needs to hear from you today.  You may be the prodigal . . . phone home!

Please don’t forget the children.  Be a bit more patient, reflect kindness, show love, focus on them when they talk to you and let them know how special they are to you.

In any of these ways, I believe, you will proclaim the life of Jesus on this, His day.

Have an awesome day!

Same Old Story . . . ?

December 24, 2008

Matthew 2:1-12 (New Living Translation)

Visitors from the East

   Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”  3 King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. 4 He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”

 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:

 6 ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah,
      are not least among the ruling cities of Judah,
   for a ruler will come from you
      who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”

 7 Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. 8 Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”

 9 After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

 12 When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.

And people say there’s nothing interesting nor compelling drama in the Bible.  Here you have a story of Kings, or Wise men, who make an arduous journey to find another King because their prophets and ancient writings had told them of a coming King of Kings.  You have a desperate despot of a governor who will stop at nothing to keep his claws on power in this dusty settlement on the edge of  Palestine.  He consorts with seers and religious teachers to discover the whereabouts of the King of Kings.  He sends these Wise Men on a journey of espionage.  They find the King of Kings, of all places, in a manger in a cave surrounded by livestock and two somewhat frightened parents.  They give the young couple gifts for the new baby king; expensive gifts from one king to another.  I mean, come on . . . this stuff oughta knock your socks off!!

Yeah, I know, we’ve heard it so many times. 

It’s kinda like being told the microwave will totally change the way we think about making meals . . . and we use it only to reheat coffee or heat water for hot chocolate.

Or being told the American space program (NASA) is going to give us a gazillion discoveries that will change the way we live . . . and the only one we remember is Tang.

Yeah . . . it’s old news, old hat, old school.  Three Kings.  Babe in a manger.  Star in the East.  Yada . . . Yada . . . Yada . . . Yada.

If you’re over 50, you’ve heard the story way too many times.

If you’re under 40, you may have never heard it except in a Nat King Cole song around Christmas time.

So, what are you going to do with Christmas 2008?  Celebrate the shadow of the season . . . or celebrate the Son of God?  The safest route is to stay in the shadows . . . yada . . . yada . . . yada . . . yada.

To Celebrate the Son of God, you will be changed forever.  Like those Wise Guys who knew what ol’ Herod was up to and went home by a different road.



No Other . . .

December 23, 2008

John 1:1-5, 10-14 (New Living Translation)

Jesus, the Eternal Word
 1 In the beginning the Word already existed.
      The Word was with God,
      and the Word was God.
 2 He existed in the beginning with God.
 3 God created everything through him,
      and nothing was created except through him.
 4 The Word gave life to everything that was created,
      and his life brought light to everyone.
 5 The light shines in the darkness,
      and the darkness can never extinguish it.
 10 He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. 12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

We took some of the grandkids to see Christmas lights again this year.  Sometimes, I think, simple and colorful lights are the best.  Over the years, the ones Pam and I love the most are the candlearia that are so prominent in the Southwest.

I was not prepared for what we discovered at one home.  I’ll put it simply:  star of David, Santa Claus, a manger scene, Frosty the Snowman and hovering angels.  You could take a picture of this display and paste it next to the definition of oxymoron in the dictionary.

This whole scene is easily a symptom of what has happened to many who have attempted to be all inclusive in their spiritual experience.  In trying not to offend, we have created some pretty odd alliances.

This season of Christmas 2008, I want to focus on the Lord Jesus Christ and allow his influence to change me and make me his follower.  I am reminding myself that God said in Exodus 20:1,2:  “I am the Lord your God.  You shall have no other gods before me.”

How I long to be Christ’s alone, depending on him alone for my life now and forever.

“As You Wish . . . “

December 22, 2008


Luke 1:47-55 (New Living Translation)

Mary’s Prayer

 47  How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
 48  For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
        and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
 49 For the Mighty One is holy,
       and he has done great things for me.
 50 He shows mercy from generation to generation
       to all who fear him.
 51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
       He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
 52 He has brought down princes from their thrones
       and exalted the humble.
 53 He has filled the hungry with good things
       and sent the rich away with empty hands.
 54 He has helped his servant Israel
       and remembered to be merciful.
 55 For he made this promise to our ancestors,
       to Abraham and his children forever.”

I’d encourage you to think of the teenager who spoke those words.  She’s not educated; she’s not an angel or leader of any religious group.  These are the words of an adolescent . . . a pregnant, unwed mother to be.

She understands what is happening to her because of a visit by the Angel Gabriel.  She was chosen by God to give birth to a child without ever having had sex with a man.  God found her trustworthy.  After eons, God tells his willing servant she is the one to birth the Son of God, Jesus. 

I love her prayer.  More than anything it simply says, “I am ready to do as you wish with me, Lord.”

Mark Lowrey wrote a poem in 1984 that asks the question, “Mary, Did You Know?”

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Did you know
That your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know
That your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered
Will soon deliver you?

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Did you know
That your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know
That your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little boy
You’ve kissed the face of god?

Mary, did you know
The blind will see
The deaf will hear
And the dead will live again
The lame will leap
The dumb will speak
The praises of the lamb

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy is lord of all creation?
Did you know
That your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know
That your baby boy is heavens perfect lamb?
This sleeping child youre holding
Is the great I Am.

I want to say with Mary today, “I am ready to do as you wish with me, Lord.”

I See Him Now . . . I Know Him Now

December 21, 2008

Heaven Cannot Hold Him

Christina Rosetti (1830-1894)


In the bleak midwinter
     Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
     Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
     Snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter
     Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
     Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
     When He comes to reign:
In the bleak midwinter
     A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty
     Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
     Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
     And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels
     Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
     Which adore.

Angels and archangels
     May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
     Thronged the air;
But only His mother
     In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
     With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
     Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
     I would bring a lamb,
If I were a Wise Man
     I would do my part,–
Yet what I can I give Him,
     Give my heart.

Frankly, He Did The Best He Could Under The Circumstances

December 20, 2008

Luke 2:1-7 (New King James Version)

Christ Born of Mary
 1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
4 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, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. 6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 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.
Much has been made of there being no room in the inn for Joseph and Mary. 
Over the years there have been times I found no room in the inn as well.  Sometimes I tried to make reservations too late.  On one occasion, my room had been given to someone else, although it was guaranteed with a credit card.  I remember it well.  I was to stay at the Hilton near the airport in St. Louis.  It was raining as if God were emptying the lakes of Heaven on the Mississippi River.  Drenched by the time I got to my rental car, I made my way rather displeased to the Hilton.  Hmmmmmm . . . no room in the inn.  “Sorry, our mistake; we’ll find you other lodging.”
Funny, that’s what the inn-keeper told Joseph and Mary.  “I have no room for you in the inn, but I’ll find you other lodging.  All I can offer is my stable against the hill . . . in the cave.”  Sadly, the Hilton didn’t find me much better accommodations on that monsoon of a night.  It was old, not well-cared-for, but it was warm and dry.  And the comforter smelled only slightly of . . . well, let’s not go there.
You see, the inn-keeper actually provided for Joseph and Mary as best he could at that moment.  He didn’t send them on and wash his hands of the young couple.  He simply offered the best he could with what he had left.  We sometimes overlook that.  We sometimes forget when Jesus comes to us at the most unexpected times, we may yet have resources to cooperate in meeting his need.

A Simple Christmas Greeting

December 19, 2008

John 14:6 (New Living Translation)


 6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. “

All kinds of commiserations have been uttered and a great variety of invectives have been thrown about us all keeping Christmas this year.

We’ve eschewed the greetings of “Happy Holidays”, “Seasons Greetings” and “Have A Great Day” during the celebration of our Savior’s birth.  Some have boldly proclaimed their seasonal feelings by uttering no greeting other than “Merry Christmas” .   And we have once again shown our ability to lead men and women to the manger with just the right twist of irony.

May I make a rather odd comment?  Who do we expect to celebrate Christmas other than people who believe in him and follow him?

When we can graciously share the risen Christ with the agnostic, the atheist, the fallen or a myriad of people who need to know him, then lets.  But when it comes to celebrating the birth of Jesus, don’t you think it’s best done by people who love him, revere him and follow him?

To be honest, the term “Merry Christmas” means little.  It’s a traditional Anglo greeting that gives notice to ones belief in having a nice Christmas season in, round or about the month of December each year.  We really can’t expect everyone to embrace it, even watered-down as it is.

If we wish to remark on what we truly believe about the birth of Jesus, I doubt we can find one phrase to fit.  Instead, let’s worship the Christ-child and throw our lives at his grace and mercy for another day, another week, another month before the year ends.

  • Psalm 29:2
    Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.
  • Psalm 95:6
    Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
  • Psalm 100:2
    Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
  • Luke 4:8
    Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’ “

Hospitality At Christmas

December 18, 2008

Romans 12:9-13 (New Living Translation)


 9 Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.   10 Love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honoring each other. 11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.  12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.   13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.

I think if I were given the chance to live my life over again, I’d practice more hospitality.  I’d ask the Lord to let me somehow understand people better and serve those who need it more often.  And I’d use hospitality as the basis for that ministry.

A widow told me her husband died in August and she was dreading Christmas without him.  I remarked on her children who had families in the area and she replied, “Yes, but their decorations are different, their home is different, their ways of doing things on Christmas day are different.  They will mean well, but it won’t be the same.”  She couldn’t get past the empty chair on Christmas day.

A man who lost his wife in June told me Christmas was going to be “hell” for him this year.  For the first time in 64 years he would enter the day without his wife by his side.  He told me how empty it would be, how there was no meaning to Christmas without his dear bride to share in it.

Many will slip gently in and out of Christmas this year, barely breathing, not wanting to disturb the forces that might make them face fully the sadness, loneliness, the abject sorrow that visits their season.  They will be in stealth mode, you’ll not hear much from them.

Others will go crashing through Christmas like a Cossack on a drunken horse.  Their invectives, sarcasms and wails of torment will be hurled in all directions to let others know of their pain and horror.  They will be in battle-armor mode, you can’t miss them.

Somewhere in between you will find most of the mourners this Christmas 2008.  Their mixed emotions, confusion and fear of tomorrow will beget a bewildering Christmas.  They will be in “deer-caught-in-the-headlights” mode.  Most of us will make our way around them because they present us with a perplexing dilemma . . . What do I say?  What do I do?  It’s better if I don’t think about them.

Alone will be the word that knifes into the flesh and minds of mourners here at the backwater of 2008.

You can help. 

  • You can help out of the abundance of your own home and share with them.
  • You can help because you see yourself in them in years to come.
  • You can help because there is enough love in your home to share with them.
  • You can help because someone must.
  • You can help in faith, believing that on December 26 you will be one giant step closer to becoming the compassionate person you dream of being.
  • You can help because Jesus would do the same for you.

It’s my prayer we all are a bit more hospitable this Christmas.