Dec 22, 2016 by

It was the day of our annual free Christmas Dinner for the Community, a tradition we began four years earlier to bring the neighborhood together to share a full Christmas dinner.  Many had such meager means to live on that they would have little or no Christmas dinner or celebration on the big day.  “It’s just another day,” said one neighbor who lived in a one-room apartment above the man known to be the provider of some of the finest pharmaceuticals to our neighborhood addicts.

We aimed to change that.  The people of the church made the commitment to provide a full, free, Christmas dinner, sing carols and offer small gifts to as many people as who would come, if not on Christmas day, shortly beforehand.

About 200 usually attended during the 3 hours we were open for business.

This day, a frigid, bitter and snowy day, the attendance was down because even the enticement of the free meal couldn’t coax many out of their homes and into the elements to walk to the church, leaving us somewhat dejected.  It wasn’t our usual attitude in this “can-do” church, but we felt bad at the meager turnout and the limited impact that was going to be made.

That’s when our unknown guest arrived, carrying a violin case – a nameless man, rumpled and worn, much like the plaid coat he was wearing, far too light for such a bitter cold December day. He had a tweed “newsboy hat” upon his head full of disheveled hair.  The only other person who noticed the man’s entrance said, “I hope he doesn’t have a machine gun in that case.”  After assuring him that this was highly unlikely I strolled over and welcomed him, telling him that his dinner was on its way.

He clearly enjoyed his meal and the pumpkin pie that was offered for dessert by one of the teens.  Calling me over he asked if he could play his violin for us.  “Of course,” I replied, worried that the sound might be the final, excruciating, cap on a disappointing day, but I was wrong.  So very wrong.

Our mystery musician played with the deftness and skill I’ve heard only among the better musicians in the city.  Christmas carol after lovely carol sweetly hung in the air captivating all who listened.  It was stunningly beautiful and played with the sensitivity of a master.  Some were moved to tears, including this writer.  He played for about 30 minutes, and when I slipped into the kitchen to help make up a few more plates for newly-arriving guests, he quietly left.

Coming out of the kitchen I noticed he was gone, but the people said he had left mere moments earlier.  I dashed up the steps to thank him for his unexpected and exquisite gift to some discouraged cooks, servers and guests, but when I got outside he was gone.  Vanished completely.  No sight of him anywhere.  I ran to the corner to look down the side street convinced he must have gone that direction.  He was nowhere to be seen.  I half-ran, half-slid on the snowy sidewalk to the far corner thinking he surely must be down there, walking or waiting for the bus.  No sight of him at all.  Gone. Disappearing into the frozen city air leaving nothing but the sound of his music still echoing in our hearts.

Returning to the dinner I told folks they must be mistaken, that he COULDN’T have “just left” as they said, for there was no trace of him anywhere, and folks just don’t dissipate like mist.

I looked at my friend, the one who worried about the machine gun in the violin case.  He had a funny look on his face, as if he’d seen a ghost.  “What are you thinking?” I asked him.  He looked intently at me and said, “What does that scripture reading say?  ‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.’  You don’t think…?”

All these years later I don’t know what to think.  I have no answers for the sudden appearance and disappearance of this mysterious musician.   But this much I do know – we were blessed unexpectedly, inspired surprisingly, and filled with joy indescribably by a man we never saw before or since.

We knew in our hearts that this was truly a “God moment” – a blessing that came as silently and as gently as did that gift given to the world in Bethlehem long ago.

Here we thought that WE were the ones helping others, but it turns out that we were blessed most of all.

Merry Christmas, friends.
Pastor Tom