On a chilly December morning several years ago, our family packed into the car and headed to church. When I pulled off the interstate, I saw a man sitting on the curb near the end of the exit ramp, holding a cardboard sign.
I was relieved that there was a car in front of me at the stoplight. Frankly, I was not in a good mood and was irritated that he was there. I heard an inner voice whispering something like “Who knows where he’ll spend that money.” So I stared forward, anxious for the light to change and annoyed to find out that this particular light was the first prizewinner in the “slowest light in the country” contest!
The driver’s window of the car in front of us opened. A hand reached out, motioned him over, and gave him a muffin. The man took it, thanked the driver, and returned to his seat. Then the back window opened. This time a hand reached out with a few dollar bills and some change. He thanked the passenger and as he was returning to the curb, the front window rolled down again. (As I said, it was a long light!)
By now, the scene had grabbed the attention of my whole family. It was obvious that the people in the car in front of us were having a different conversation than the one that was going on in my head.
They had given him something and realized that the first gift wasn’t enough.
We leaned forward, anticipating scene number three.
As the man walked to the car, this time he was given a pie, a whole pie, covered in foil. He took it, looked down at it gratefully, and turned to sit down. Tears ran down my wife’s face and our boys watched in wonder. My eyes filled with tears as well, but they were tears of sorrow. Then the light turned green. My thoughts turned inward.
He was naked and I kept the clothes. He was hungry and I ate the food myself. He was thirsty and I made sure I quenched mine. In the time it had taken for a traffic light to turn from red to green, I had not only seen the Gospel lived out in the car in front of me, I’d played the role of Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, the part before Christmas morning dawned.
That night, I spoke to my family about what we had witnessed, and what I’d learned about my own heart.
And then we went shopping.
The next Sunday as we pulled onto the exit ramp, a loud “YES!” erupted from my boys in the back seat. He was there again and they were ready. We pulled up next to where he was sitting and rolled our window down. By the time he sat back down on the curb, he had a pair of warm gloves, a knit hat, a cup of hot chocolate, and two doughnuts. And there was a family who knew his name was Jim.
Jesus often sits beside I-65 holding a cardboard sign.
Sometimes he huddles under bridges as he shields himself from the bitter winter wind. And often he walks the streets downtown and asks strangers for food. I didn’t really understand this until one Sunday morning in early December.
That’s when I saw a family in a car in front of me reaching out a car window, handing him gold, frankincense and myrrh that looked for all the world like a freshly baked pie.
Al has released one of our favorite Christmas books called A Walk One Winter Night. In this book, Al offers a new perspective on the nativity scene and tells the story of how he began to see the characters for who they really were. Begin a new tradition with your family this Christmas by reading this fantastic book. Buy a copy here.