One of my favorite Christmas stories is about an elderly cobbler who dreamed one Christmas Eve that Jesus would visit him the next day.1 The dream was so real that he was convinced it would come true.
So the next morning he got up and decorated his shop and sat down to wait for Him.
The hours passed and Jesus didn’t come. But an old man stepped inside to get out of the winter cold. As they talked, the cobbler couldn’t help noticing the holes in the old man’s shoes, so before he left, he reached up on the shelf and gave him a new pair.
Still, Jesus didn’t come. But a woman knocked at the door and told him she hadn’t eaten that day, and could he spare anything for her family. The cobbler gave her the lunch he’d prepared for himself. Then he sat down again to wait for Jesus.
Instead, he heard a child crying in front of his shop. It was a boy who had been separated from his parents and was lost. This was in the days before telephones, so he put on his coat, locked his shop, and led the boy to his address a few blocks away.
That evening, the cobbler reflected on his day with a twinge of sadness that his dream hadn’t come true. Oh Jesus, why didn’t You come?
And then he seemed to hear a voice saying, I came three times today. I was the man with the cold feet. I was the woman you gave food to eat. I was the boy on the street.
Jesus had come. And the cobbler had cared for Him without knowing it.2
One of the paradoxes of the modern world is that the majority of people who celebrate Christmas in one way or another have never really heard the real Christmas story. Even many of those who’ve seen Nativity displays, adverts, or Christmas movie clips and can identify the characters—Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, some shepherds, some wise men, some angels—don’t actually know what happened to them or why it matters.
That’s hardly their fault. The Christmas ecosystem has become cluttered with commercial interests that detract from its message. To be honest, most of us could use a refresher. That’s why this issue of Activated includes a special four-page feature to retell that story in detail.
May you and yours have a wonderful and happy Christmas!
- This version was adapted and shortened from Leo Tolstoy’s short story “Where Love Is, God Is.”
- See Matthew 25:37–40.