A Christmas Poem

It happened one day at years white end,
two neighbors called on an old time friend.
They found his shop so meager and mean,
made gay with a thousand boughs of green.
Conrad was sitting, with face a-shine,
When he suddenly stopped as he stitched a twine
And said, “Old friends at dawn today,
When the cock is crowing the night away,
The Lord appeared in a dream to me.
And said, “I am coming, your guest to be,
So I have been busy with feet a-stir,
Strewing my shop with branches of fir.
The table is spread, the kettle is shined.
Over the rafters 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 at His face.

So his friends went home and left Conrad alone,
For this was the happiest day he had known.
For long since his family had passed away and
Conrad had spent a sad Christmas Day.
But he knew with the Lord as his Christmas guest
This Christmas would be the dearest and best,
And he listened with only joy in his heart,
And with every sound he would rise and start,
And look for the Lord to be standing there
In answer to his earnest prayer.

So he ran to the window after hearing a sound,
But all that he saw on the snow covered ground
Was a shabby beggar whose shoes were torn
All of his clothes were ragged and worn
So Conrad was touched, and went to the door,
And he said, “Your feet must be frozen and sore,
And I have some shoes in my shop for you,
And a coat that will keep you 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 he would have to wait.

When he heard a knock, and he ran to the door,
But it was only a stranger once more.
A bent old crone, with a shawl of black
And a bundle of faggots placed on her back.
She asked only for a place to rest.
But it was reserved for Conrad’s Great Guest.
Her voice seemed to plead “Don’t send me away,
Let me rest awhile on Christmas day.”
So Conrad brewed her a steaming cup
And told her to sit at the table, and sip.
But she left, and 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 that He would.
Conrad felt sure that he had misunderstood
Then 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 her family, on Christmas Day.
Again Conrad’s heart was heavy and sad
But he knew that he should make this little child glad,
So he called her in and wiped her tears,
And quieted her childish fears.
Then he led her back to her home once more.
But as he entered his own darkened door
He knew that the Lord was not coming today
The hours of Christmas had 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 wanted so much your face to 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 door.
Three times I came to your lonely door.
For I was the beggar with bruised cold feet,
I was the woman you gave food to eat,
And I was the child on the homeless street.
– Christmas Poem by Helen Steiner Rice