From the outside, all appears normal. The small house with the addition on the back and a fenced yard looks like any other on the street. Bikes are scattered on the patio, and a rabbit hops from his cage and disappears under the shed.
Inside, the house is neat and clean. There’s not a lot of room, but everything has its place. The couple who live in the house just brought home their second child together, and they’re still adjusting to his middle-of-the-night feedings. His big brother is proud and happy.
Watching them come and go, you would never know this is his second chance at a family, and he’s making the most of it. You wouldn’t know that he also has two girls with another woman, two children who no longer live with him because of a time in his life when he and his girlfriend did not make the kinds of choices that would let them continue to be parents.
You would not be able to see the long road he has traveled through rehab and mending relationships, and how fatherhood the second time around has changed him, reminded him of the man he needs to be. If you passed him in the street, you wouldn’t be able to compare what used to be to what now is – how he stands straighter, his eyes clear and his heart resolute.
If you met this man in the days after he lost his girls, his prospects would have been grim indeed. If you met him today, things would be looking up. You never know someone’s story or what battle they may be fighting, and the mere fact of that statement should give us pause to consider our words every time we meet someone new.
You wouldn’t have known, for instance, if you were traveling from Bethlehem to Nazareth, that the pregnant girl on the donkey headed the opposite way with a young, sober-faced man were about to become parents to a child who would cause the sky to split open with praises.
You wouldn’t know the wondrous mystery behind his conception. You wouldn’t see the nobleness of his father or the courage of his mother. You wouldn’t know that this child had been foretold by prophets and anticipated for centuries.
If you were the innkeeper, you would see the girl was in desperate need of a bed, but you wouldn’t see that by giving her a place to lay her head, you were fulfilling the very words angels had spoken minutes before.
You wouldn’t know the manger in which the child was born would lead to a cross on which he would die.
We all have a story, and Christmas tends to bring people’s stories out more than usual. If you have a minute when you meet someone this Christmas season, take a second, speak kindly and ask what their story is. Their words might be just what you need to hear.