The Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy wrote a charming tale about a poor shoemaker named Martin.
Life was hard for the Russian shoemaker, who lost his wife and children to sickness many years before. Now an old man, Martin lived in his one-room basement shop making and repairing shoes and boots. Tired and alone, the old shoemaker found peace in his small book of Gospels. He took the lessons of Christ to heart; more and more he saw himself in the stories and heard the Savior speaking directing to him.Christ is born as a tiny baby, an old man, a young mother, an old woman, a child, a stranger, a friend. Christ comes to us at all hours, and in all people. May we be open to greet him whenever he appears, and may he be born in our hearts this day. Merry Christmas!
Every evening after finishing the day’s work, Martin would light his small lamp and read from his book. One night he fell asleep while reading. He was awakened by a voice: “Martin!” “Who is there?” Martin called out, but saw no one. “Martin! Ah Martin! Look tomorrow on the street. I am coming.”
Martin awoke the next morning and began his day. He kept looking out his shop window, thinking about the voice he heard. As he went to his bench, he saw his old neighbor Stepanich clearing the ice and snow away from the building.
“Come in, warm yourself,” Martin called. The old man happily obliged and the two sat down to enjoy the tea Martin had made. “Are you expecting anyone?” Stepanich asked. Martin laughed, and told him about his crazy dream. The two laughed and enjoyed another glass of tea. Martin returned to his bench by the window.
As he worked, he saw a woman carrying a child. The woman was dressed in shabby summer clothes and had nothing to wrap her baby in. Martin ran outside and invited them in out of the cold. He heated some cabbage soup and found a blanket for the baby. The woman’s husband was a soldier and had been away seven months. She and the child were destitute; she had just pawned her only shawl for a few cents. Martin pulled out an old trunk from under his bed and found some of his wife’s winter clothes and an old coat. As the woman offered her tearful thanks, Martin pressed a twenty-kopek piece into her hand.
Later that afternoon his work was interrupted by shouting outside his window. An old apple woman had a little boy by his hair, screaming at him. The boy had tried to steal one of the woman’s apples but she caught him. She threatened to take him to the police. The boy denied he had tried to take the apple. Martin entreated the old woman, “Let him go. He won’t do it again. Here, take this for the apple.” The boy tried to run off but Martin grabbed him. “Ask for the Granny’s forgiveness and don’t do it again; I saw you taking the apple.” And the boy apologized. Martin and the old woman then shared memories of their own children before wishing each other well. Martin returned to his bench and worked until dark, and forgot about his dream.
That night, Martin heard the voice again. “Martin — ah Martin! Did you not recognize me?” “Who?” uttered Martin. “Me,” replied the voice. “It is I” and Stepanich stepped out of the darkness. “And this is I,” said the voice, and the young mother and her child appeared. “And this is I,” continued the voice, and the old apple woman and the boy stepped forward.
And Martin realized that the Savior had called upon him that day and Martin had received him.