“We should have locked the door,” I heard from the other room as I rang the bell at the front office of the homeless shelter’s outreach office around 4 p.m. one day last week. I had taken an ornament off a tree set up at church to provide gifts for folks at the shelter. I had chosen to buy for a lady, and although at first I thought I might donate a set of scents or something I had extra at the house, I decided someone at the shelter could get more use out of a gift certificate to Family Dollar, which is within walking distance of the shelter.
I hadn’t had a chance to get the gift to the shelter earlier, so this was the earliest in the day I could swing by. I first went to the shelter, but a gent there told me to go next door, which I did. Apparently they close at 4 and were ready to close up but had just not locked the door yet.
I’m sure the folks in that office deal with requests all day long and are glad when 4 p.m. comes around and they don’t have to listen to pleas for help for a few hours.
They had no idea, of course, that the person up front ringing their bell was there not to ask for help but to give them something. I don’t know if they thought I couldn’t hear them say “we should have locked the door,” but it wasn’t quite the welcome I expected.
Of course they took my gift and my name, which I wrote as quickly as I could so I wouldn’t hold them up any longer than I had to, and when I left, a young lady was right behind me to make sure she locked the door. I said as she shut the door behind me, “You can lock the door now.”
The more I thought about the encounter, the more it reminded me of that first Christmas, and quite frankly many since, when the world “locked the door” so to speak on the Greatest Gift. Perhaps not realizing that God was not asking but giving, many have hastily said, “we should have locked the door” when they heard Him seeking entrance.
Even the innkeeper probably at least thought it that first night before the Baby was born. “I should have locked the door. These customers keep showing up, and I don’t have any more rooms to rent. I’ve got my hands full, I’m tired, and I’m fed up with people wanting something from me.”
When he saw the pregnant lady, of course he felt like a cad for not finding somewhere for her to rest, and as it turned out, the place that should have been “fit for a king” was no more noble than a cow pasture with about as much ambiance. We see some beautiful Christmas cards of the manger scene, but it probably stunk to high heavens, making it quite easy for the angels to find it.
Just like my reception at the outreach office, it probably was not quite the welcome God expected….or maybe it was.
Robert MacGimsey’s song “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” speaks about our treatment of the “sweet little Holy Child” who had to be born in a manger: “We didn’t know who You was.”
We didn’t know that you came to save us, he writes. We were blind and couldn’t see that you were bringing a gift, not seeking one.
We have all too often not only wished we’d locked the door; sometimes we shut it in His face, and in doing so, we close ourselves off to a gift, the Greatest Gift.
When you hear Him at the door, whether as a Baby, a Savior or a King, how will you respond?
Is the door unlocked?