Jimmy Gupton tells of when he was 93 and ready to go on home to God. For the 1000th time, he had prayed for God to take him home. His wife had been gone for seven years, and it was getting harder and harder to go through the motions of the holiday. He had a big silver Christmas tree in the attic, but attaching the 150 branches was a big job and it was almost impossible for him to see the holes to insert the branches. So he had just left it in the attic, packed away fro several years. His family was pressing for him to move in with them but he just couldn't leave his home and lose his independence.
As he sat down and watched the news, he saw a story on the Salvation Army shelter in downtown Charlotte. There were over women sleeping in the shelter, "out of work and out of hope." Jimmy wanted to help but he didn't have much money. He turned off the lights, said his prayers and then climbed into bed. But instead of falling asleep, he kept seeing the women at the shelter. "Those women were needing help, just like me," he thought. And then an idea came into his head. What if two needy folks put their needs together? What if one of those women moved in and took care of the house in exchange for a place to live?
The next morning he called the shelter. They called back a few days later inquiring about a married couple, she a waitress and he a carpenter, and both had gotten laid off at the same time, evicted form their home and were sleeping at the shelter. Jimmy said, he hadn't counted on two people. It wasn't that big a house, and the room was barely big enough for one. But the counselor said, "I thought the wife could care for the house and the husband for the yard." "Send them over and we'll give it a try."
And try they did. As soon they were talking like only friends. It was nice to have someone care for the house and yard and cook the meals. They cared even enough to take him to the senior center and to church on Sundays.
About three months after they had come, Pam said she need to talk. Jimmy was worried that they were going to move out. Pam said, "I don't know how to say this. I know I should have told you from the beginning but I was afraid you wouldn't let us stay. But I can't put this off any longer. You see, I'm--I'm--going to have a baby."
Jimmy said, "Well you're right about one things, I certainly hadn't counted on three. But I can't put you back n the street, not with a baby coming." His mind was shouting, "A baby, where will we put a baby?" Pam said, I know there's not much room here, but if I move the dresser out of the bedroom , I'll have room for crib. I'll try to keep the baby quiet so as not to disturb you."
The months flew by, and Pam shifted the furniture in the bedroom to make room for a crib and then began to wallpaper and paint all over the house. And before he knew it, Sabrina was born and she grew to three months old, then to five months old and then it was the middle of December and almost Christmas again.
Jimmy was sitting in the living room reading the Christmas story out of the Gospel of Luke when he read, "...and laid him in a manger because there was not room for them in the inn." That must have saddened God, he thought. Even as crowded as the inn was, he knew that wasn't the point of the story. What God wanted far more than room at the inn was for people to open their hearts and make room for His Son. Perhaps that was what God had been trying to get him to do. While he had opened his house, maybe God wanted him to open his heart to them.
He walked over to the stairs and called to Tony and Pam. "Is something wrong?" "You bet," he said, it's almost Christmas and we don't have a tree up!" "We thought about that," Tony said, "but trees are so expensive." "Well I know a beautiful tree just waiting to be put up. When it's standing with colored light beaming across its silver branches, you never saw anything so beautiful." So Tony and Pam went up in the attic, got the tree and together all three of them put it together. When Jimmy turned on the lights, he heard the oohs and ahhs.
About that time, there was a hungry cry from upstairs. Pam went to go get Sabrina. When she came down, Jimmy motioned for the baby to free Pam up to go heat up a bottle. Sabrina sat in his lap just eyeing each other silently. He felt kind of awkward, because it had been a long time since he had held and talked to a child. Sabrina looked at him ,and Jimmy thought she might start to cry but instead she began to laugh and reached her little hand to his cheek. Jimmy laughed too as he realized she was trying to catch the lights from the tree reflecting off his face.
And then he writes, "...(in that moment) her touch made me think of another child, born on Christmas so many years ago. Tony was arranging candles in the window and Pam was humming a carol in the kitchen. And I whispered a prayer, 'Thank you Lord for letting me see another Christmas...for leaving me here though I fussed and fretted. Sometimes it takes a baby to remind an old man what your world is really about--in that one moment when Christ was born. Oh, Praise his name for that one moment!'"
From Tim Smith's Sermon "Born Identity"
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