It happened in the past, but I was there, and the memory of the faces and more of the atmosphere remain clear in my mind. It is a Christmas story, not only because there was a Christmas tree in the room, and because it was mere days before the 25th of December, but because the happening was of love, of human pathos and need, of giving…and receiving.
We knew something was wrong when the new people missed two Sundays in a row and then they didn’t show for another mid-week function. We called and learned the story; a story of almost no work, utilities being shut off, prized possessions pawned, dark depression, embarrassment…and Christmas was in a few days and a small child was involved, as was an elderly parent.
The pastor made a phone call. “Don’t you think we should assist them? Shouldn’t we take money from the church to help them out of this jam?”
The pastor and the person listening both knew there was no abundance in the church accounts, and that in the near future there were obligations for every penny that had been banked, but is this not Christmas…is this not what the church teaches…is this not a challenge to our faith…is this not opportunity to reveal Jesus to hurting people?
From a file cabinet, we took the small checkbook, and the pastor wrote a check for $500.00. We drove to their house, and when they opened the door, it was obvious they were surprised, and after they asked us in, she scurried about, speaking thoughts of an unkempt home (which it really was not). “Sit down, here. Please sit,” they spoke.
The man was standing now, and after a time of small talk, the pastor walked over, drew from his shirt pocket the check, and said, “Here, we’ve brought a little money to help you out.”
Stock-still, the man stared. There was no speech in him. He gazed long into the pastor’s face. “No, no, I can’t do that.”
He continued to look at the pastor, his sight locked into his face, as he persisted in his refusal of help: the pastor pressed him to take the money.
“No, I can’t do that,” the simple modest man protested.
Trembling and crying, the wife spoke. “I didn’t tell you our problems so you would give to us,” she said to the pastor’s wife. “We didn’t have this in mind…not at all.” Her eyes were red-rimmed with purple shadows beneath. Her face was pale.
“We know…we understand. We know you weren’t asking for money.”
The man now threw his arms around the man with the check. “Oh, Pastor, Pastor.” He still had not brought himself to take the check, but pulled himself back and, again, stared long into the eyes of his pastor.
I wept, as I watched.
“Here, you must take it,” the pastor insisted, and at last the check had been transferred.
That precious man again wrapped the pastor in his long arms, exclaiming, “Pastor, oh Pastor.”
Soon we left.
As lights twinkled on the Christmas tree in a simple living room one afternoon in the past, as people wept together and loved each other, as they gave and received, I think I heard a faint rustle–as of angel wing.