(Adapted from a story by John Duckworth)
It was Christmas Eve at Faith Community Church. Pastor White said, “Now before our choir sings, ‘Angels We Have Heard on High,’ I would like to read our Scripture text from Hebrews 13:2.” Just then a murmur rose from the back of the sanctuary. A shocking pair of visitors had just entered. The man was tall, blond, with a shaggy beard and was wearing a grimy, thin coat. The girl was very, very pregnant. She wore a shapeless dress and a tattered sweater, with a scarf around her stringy, black hair. As the couple shuffled toward an open seat near the front, one of the older members whispered loudly, “I wonder if they are married.” Pastor White then read Hebrews 13:2, “Don’t forget to entertain strangers for by doing so, some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” He added, “This verse reminds us of the importance of showing hospitality to visitors, because we never know who they might really be.”
All it once it hit him. A bearded young man and pregnant young woman, in obvious need on Christmas Eve. Looking at the couple Pastor White said, “Before the choir sings, I am wondering if our visitors would mind introducing themselves.” The man hesitated, but stood up and said, “Well, my name is Joe, and my wife is Mary.” Murmurs were again heard throughout the crowd. “Our car broke down and we don’t have any place to sleep tonight. We saw the lights on, so we just came in.” The murmurs grew louder. Pastor White said, “Well, it is nice to have you here. I am sure we can help you out.” Looking around the congregation he asked, “Who would like to volunteer…” Before he could finish his question, Lizzy Jones jumped to her feet. “They can stay at my place, Pastor,” Lizzy said in her loud, but squeaky voice.”
Pastor White could almost hear inaudible groans in the congregation. “I should have known better than to ask for volunteers,” he thought. “Lizzy always is willing. But, she lives in that tiny, old, shack on the edge of town. And, she is so strange.” Pastor White wasn’t the only one in the room who thought Lizzy was strange. Just last week, Frank, one of the church Elders, had told him, “I am hearing complaints about Lizzy. She always rides her old, three wheeled bike around town, wearing that ridiculous, rainbow colored, coat. She is hurting the reputation of our church.”
Frank spoke up and said, “Thanks, Lizzy, but I think it is much more appropriate if Joe and Mary would stay at our local inn, I mean hotel. The church should pay for two nights of lodging for them.” There were murmurs of approval throughout the congregation. Pastor White said, “That sounds like a great idea. How does that sound Joe and Mary?” The young couple looked at each other and smiled. “That would be wonderful,” Joe said.
The Christmas Eve service continued, and after it concluded many people wanted to meet Joe and Mary. Pastor White was proud of how his congregation was showing hospitality to strangers. After standing by herself for a few minutes Lizzy Jones put on her rainbow colored coat and quietly slipped out the door. She crawled on her three wheeled bike and headed for her little house. It was a clear, cool night. “It is much like that first Christmas Eve night,” she thought, “when I joined the others in announcing the birth of the Messiah to the shepherds. This is a much harder assignment. But maybe there was a little progress this evening.”
Rev. Dan Erickson
Senior Pastor, Chisholm Baptist Church