For see…I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day a Savior.
The gas station nearest our house is the one we always go to. The turnover is probably about the same as any other gas station, but for some reason the people who work there are always friendly. This morning I went to fill up before coming to church and the attendants, who both looked like they’d been there all night, told me an amazing story.
For safety’s sake, they always work in pairs during the graveyard shift. It’s always pretty deserted after midnight, but they never close. I imagine they’re always tired and bored during that shift, but the little office where they sit between customers is not warm enough for them to doze off. So they talk about sports and eat peanuts and text their friends and swap stories.
Last night, around 1 a.m., this guy suddenly appeared in the doorway. They’re a little freaked out; customers hardly ever get out of their cars in the middle of the night. This guy doesn’t look like a typical customer and guess what? He doesn’t even have a car. They described him to me as cleaner than most, with no really scary tattoos or open sores. The only piercings were his eyes, which were clear and looking straight at them. He was definitely not from around here. He starts to speak, and he’s talking as if he’s giving a speech to a huge arena, not making small talk with a couple of pump boys.
They recited his speech to me as if they were making it themselves:
“I bring amazing and wonderful news for everyone—a child has been born who is going to not only teach us all about the kingdom of God, but also give us the kingdom! Born this very night, he’s going to grow up and save the world from all its darkness, from the heaviness and sadness and hopelessness all around us. He’s going to make you guys free! The way you’ll recognize the child—the way you’ll know I’m telling you the truth—is that he’ll be right where I’m about to tell you he is. Go to the Family Winter Warming Center at 125th and Halsey. It’s very crowded tonight because it’s so cold out and so many more families are homeless this year. Boy, are their lives going to change! There’s one family that couldn’t get into the main sleeping area. You’ll find them in the hallway between the kitchen and the common area, opposite the restrooms. They’ve got a brand new baby, wrapped up in rags. He’s the good news! And he’s got good news to share! Go see him! Don’t you want to be among the first to see him??”
Then he disappeared.
This guy, this guy they called “that weird prophet angel dude,” was so bizarre, and so enthusiastic, that each of my gas station guys privately decides he couldn’t be making this up. They don’t know what he’s talking about, or why he is telling them, but they both believe him.
They were pretty funny as they recounted to me the conversation they had with each other last night.
Should we go? One of them asked the other. Well, we can’t Says the first guy. (I don’t know either of their names.) We can’t leave the station. We could. We could lock it up safe and be back in an hour. Hm.
Should we go? We should go. Do you think we should go? I’ll go if you go. What if we lose our jobs? We won’t. We’ll be back. Besides, the boss always says we should close if it’s a matter of safety. Maybe it is. Get it? Safety…Savior? And what if that dude was right and this Savior is going to make us free. Maybe that means it’s okay if we lose our jobs. Maybe that’s what it means. How will we know if we don’t go?
So they make their way to the Family Warming Station at 125th and Halsey. They don’t even try to get a bus, but walk the three miles, heads down into the wind. The walk goes quickly as they share stories about all the weird people they’ve encountered in the gas station. By the time they get there, they know what it feels like to be in need of a warming station.
The weird prophet angel dude was right about one thing: it was crowded in there. Crowded and too warm. Smelly. They recognized a few families they’ve seen in the gas station, driving through with cars they were obviously living in. One of them saw someone he’d been to high school with. The other saw someone who used to wait tables at the all-night diner near his house. He didn’t know she had a toddler. There in the hallway, right where the weird prophet angel dude said they’d be, was the family with the newborn, sort of jammed up against the wall so as not to block the path to the kitchen.
He looks just like any other baby. And yet there he is, the savior they’ve been hearing about, not just from the angel dude but from generations of preachers and prophets. They know it’s true. They don’t know how they know and they don’t know what it means, but they know it’s true.
They went and found the people they recognized from the gas station, the families living in crowded cars, and told them. They found the ex-waitress and her little boy, and told her. They found the guy one of them went to high school with, and told him. That baby over there? He’s going to change the world. He’s giving us a new world. Go tell your friends. And tell them to tell their friends. After they told all the people they had recognized when they first got there, they told everybody else there. Most of the people were so tired of the same old news, they’re excited for these guys’ excitement, and they’re excited for some good news. Any good news.
My guys knew it was time to get back to the gas station. The walk was easier on the way back, maybe because the wind was at their backs, or maybe because they’re so excited. When they get back and unlock the pumps and the little office, all they want to do is give all the gas away for free. (Now that would’ve been a fun surprise this Christmas morning!) But they don’t. They’re not sure the boss would understand. Instead, they share their good news with everyone who comes in. Most of the customers think they’re nuts, but a few are so ready for some good news that it makes their night, or makes their morning. Those customers drive away with a tank full of gas and a heart full with good news of great joy. And some of them tell their friends, and they tell their friends to tell their friends.
Who are you going to tell?