The tiny baby boy was born in a decaying prospecting camp. Gold was king and it seemed as if the king had left his throne. The camp was run down, dirty, and so were the men. The lone woman, prostitute Cherokee Sal, suffered through a horrific delivery and died shortly after the child was born.
This created chaotic frenzy for the bachelor miners. What were a bunch of roughneck miners supposed to with a newborn?
With avid reluctance, the miners decided to keep the infant.
Dubbed “The Kid,” the bristly old miners fed him donkey’s milk and wrapped him in dirty rags. Strangely, the child thrived. And so did the lonely broken down men of the pitiful camp. Recognizing the young child’s vulnerability and utter dependence on them, the men began to see their lives through a new set of lenses, one of purpose.
The once short-tempered, unkempt, selfish men began to see the young babe as a positive force in their camp. Moved by his pure innocence, they organized a rather crude christening ceremony, changed his name to Tommy Luck and assigned him a godfather.
Life began to change in the camp.
First, in the boy’s room. It was scrubbed clean and decorated with various beautiful things from nature. Soon a competition, of sorts, ensued to care for the child: a local store owner imported a carpet and a mirror for the room.
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Eventually, more was expected of the men. Gentleness was demanded, raucous shouting restricted. Rigorous rules were enforced about hygiene and appearance if one wanted to see the boy.
The camp flourished in every way.
Mysteriously, the mere touch of the baby’s skin began to melt away their selfishness. His helplessness dismantled their greediness. When that tiny babe grabbed their fingers and held tight, they slowly let go of their own rage.
The child’s pure love seemed to thaw their frostbitten hearts.
Tommy’s presence changed everything.
And though this fictional short story was written in 1868 by Brett Harte, the original story was first told over 2,000 years ago. This particular story is simply a retelling of a baby boy, who, born to a young teenage woman, flipped the whole “camp” upside down.
Jesus was Immanuel, literally, God with us. Jesus, in the form of a helpless tiny child, was reminding us that God hasn’t forgotten us. That we are the beloved, the apple of His eye, worthy of His deepest affection.
Truly, recorded by those “in the camp,” Jesus brought light to those wandering in the lost. Jesus touched bodies that were unexplainably healed. But more, he touched hearts shackled by fear and injustice and they were set free.
Jesus befriended the forgotten and marginalized.
He restored dignity to those who waded in the stinking sludge of life.
Jesus forgave those who were wracked with shame.
Jesus lit a torch of hope to a world who was sure their sin was irreversible.
Jesus exchanged the emotional currency of pride for humility, animosity for friendship, skepticism for trust.
His presence in the “camp” changed everything.
Does your “camp” — your home, your workplace, your heart need to change? Jesus not only came once, to a certain ancient people, but comes again and again, to us. It’s why we celebrate Christmas.
Larry and Linda Kloster sponsor this column.