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Russian Shoemaker

To end off the year I would like to tell you a story. It is not really my story, but a very old Eastern story about a very poor Russian shoemaker.

It was the night before Christmas, he was feeling very sorry for himself, his wife had died, his children had all grown up and moved away. So with the sound of children and festivities all around he retreated to his one room which served as shop, workshop, bedroom and living room. He had all he needed, a bed, a warm stove, his tools, a roof over his head, all the food he needed, but tonight it just didn’t seem enough! That night he had a dream in which Jesus asked him about his problem. The old shoemaker admitted that he should have been more thankful, but he was lonely! Then Jesus made an amazing promise, he said that tomorrow he would visit him!

The old shoemaker didn’t know what to make of it all – he had never had a dream like it before! But when he woke early next morning he was eager to get ready for Jesus! He cleaned the house and put a fresh pot of coffee on the stove, all the while watching to street to make sure that he didn’t miss Jesus! Maybe this is Jesus coming down the street… but no it was just the street sweeper! Sorely disappointed, he couldn’t help but notice that he looked very cold and weary so he invited him in anyway.  The shoemaker gave him some nice hot coffee, and the opportunity to warm his hands by the fire, but he was still concentrating on the street – he didn’t want to miss Jesus!

The next person to come along was a woman with a baby. Although he knew this was not Jesus, this woman caught his attention because she was so poor that she didn’t have a coat, and the child didn’t have shoes! So the shoemaker invited them into his shop. She told him her sad story of being a single mother, who had just been evicted from her house and was now forced to go home to her parent’s house in the next village. He wondered what he could do to help, and then remembered that there was just one item belonging to his late wife that was clogging up his wardrobe – a coat that would be about the right size. He also had a pair of shoes that were exactly the right size for the child that he had made many years ago, which were just gathering dust on the shelf. Finally, they left, warmed and encouraged, but all the old shoemaker was thinking about was that maybe he had missed Jesus!

The day dragged on for the shoemaker, he talked to many, helped a few others yet at the end of the day he was so disappointed because he hadn’t seen Jesus! Maybe it was just a dream anyway… Yet that night he had another dream and he heard himself telling Jesus how let down he felt! Then Jesus told him “Haven’t you read the scripture that says ‘I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes… Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me – you did it to me!'” Maybe he had met Jesus!

There are many who will struggle over this Christmas break, feeling lost and alone, maybe what you need to do is to encourage someone else, and as you do maybe you will meet Jesus as well!

May God bless you this Christmas.

Chaplain Ian S Whitley

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