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Conrad's Christmas Day

It happened one day at the year's white end

  • Two neighbours called on an old time friend,
  • And they found his shop so meagre and mean
  • Made bright with a thousand boughs of green,
  • And Conrad was sitting with face ashine
  • When he suddenly stopped as he stitched a twine
  • And said, Old friends, at dawn today
  • When the rooster was crowing the night away,
  • The Lord appeared in a dream to me
  • And said, I am coming your guest to be.
  • So I've been busy with feet astir,
  • Strewing my shop with branches of fir.
  • The table is spread and the kettle is shined
  • And over the rafter the holly is twined.
  • And now I will wait for my Lord to appear,
  • And listen closely so I will hear
  • His step as He nears my humble place
  • And I open the door and look in His face.

So his friends went home and left Conrad alone

  • As this was the happiest day he had known,
  • For long since his family had all passed away
  • And Conrad had spent many a sad Christmas day.
  • But he knew with the Lord as his Christmas guest
  • This Christmas would be the dearest and best.
  • So he listened with only joy in his heart
  • And with every sound he would rise with a start
  • And look for the Lord to be standing there
  • In answer to his real earnest prayer.
  • So he ran to the window on hearing a sound
  • But all that he saw on the snow covered ground
  • Was a shabby beggar with shoes outworn,
  • And all of his clothes were tattered and torn.
  • Then Conrad was touched and went to the door
  • And said, Your feet must be frozen and sore,
  • But I have some shoes in my shop just for you,
  • And a coat that will keep you much warmer too.

So with grateful heart the man went away.

  • But as Conrad noticed the time of day
  • He wondered what made the dear Lord so late,
  • And how much longer that he'd have to wait.
  • Then he heard a knock and ran to the door,
  • But it was only a stranger there once more.
  • A bent old woman with shawl of black,
  • And a bundle of sticks piled up on her back.
  • She asked only for a place to rest
  • But that was reserved for Conrad's great guest.
  • Then her voice seemed to plead, Don't send me away.
  • Let me rest for a while on this Christmas day.
  • So Conrad made soup and gave her a cup
  • And told her to sit at the table and sup.

Then after she left he was filled with dismay

  • For he saw that the hours were passing away,
  • And the Lord had not come, as he said he would,
  • And Conrad felt sure he had misunderstood.
  • When out of the stillness he heard a cry,
  • Please help me and tell me, where am I?
  • So again he opened his friendly door
  • And stood disappointed as twice before.
  • It was only a child who had wandered away
  • And was lost from his family that Christmas day.
  • Again Conrad's heart was heavy and sad
  • But he knew he should make this little child glad.
  • So he called him in and wiped his tears
  • And quieted all his childish fears,
  • Then led him back to his home once more.

But as he entered his own darkened door

  • He knew that the Lord was not coming today,
  • For the hours of Christmas had all passed away.
  • So he went to his room and knelt down to pray
  • And he said, Dear Lord, why did you delay?
  • What kept you from coming to call on me,
  • For I so much wanted your face I could see?
  • When soft in the silence a voice he heard.
  • Lift up your head, for I kept my word.
  • Three times my shadow crossed your floor.
  • Three times I came to your lonely door.
  • For I was the beggar with bruised, cold feet.
  • I was the woman you gave something to eat.
  • And I was the child on the homeless street.

-- Helen Steiner Rice

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