Last minute shoppers crowded into the messy Christmas aisle of our local pharmacy. Items marked down for quick sale were strategically placed for the busy shoppers darting in and out to grab what they needed.
The aisle had everything from ornaments and lights to holiday slippers and crock pots.
I watched as harried mothers and busy shoppers cruised through, snatching up items to throw into their cart and be on their way. Everyone seemed to be in a hurry – everyone, except one old woman halfway down the aisle.
She was small in size, modestly dressed, and leaned on her pull-cart for support. The cart was also used to hold the oxygen tank she was hooked up to. She didn’t look strong enough or healthy enough to be out shopping by herself. Her wispy grey hair hid most of her face from my view, but her frail body and gentle countenance held my attention. I lingered to watch her.
Every item she picked up seemed precious to her. I watched her examine candles, cheap garland and children’s gifts like they were delicate crystal or valuable jewels.
With each item she placed in her basket came another careful evaluation of what she had already selected. She would rearrange the content again and decide whether or not to make a substitution.
I don’t know how long she’d been in the store before I arrived – but what I witnessed took close to an hour.
When she finally finished, she straightened up and pulled out her wallet. Her eyes shifted back and forth between her selections and the cash. She made her way up to the register.
Apparently I wasn’t the only one who had been watching her.
At the register, the old woman pulled out her cash in one hand and began laboriously unloading her cart with the other. She asked the person at the register to please keep a running total and not go over the amount she was holding in her hand.
Then I saw Jesus. He took on the form of a gentle man, an ordinary man. A man who cared.
He quietly slipped in between the woman and the counter, giving the attendant his credit card. The old woman was so focused on her job of emptying her cart, she missed seeing him.
The gentleman didn’t need recognition. He sweetly stepped aside as the woman finished emptying her basket. Eventually she learned someone had given her a special gift. Her purchase was paid in full. She didn’t jump up and down like a lottery winner, she didn’t even insist on knowing who had done this kind act – she merely clutched her bag of selections and turned in my direction to leave.
With tubes wrapped around her ears and across her nose, her dim eyes released a tear as it made its way down her wrinkled cheek and our eyes met. Mine were damp too.
We both knew we had witnessed Christmas in the rawest form. We had seen Jesus.
“Then Jesus said, I’m telling you the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:40
I saw Jesus in the face of the generous gentleman – I also saw Jesus in the face of the old woman who graciously received the gift he gave her.
May we all be as generous to give and to receive this Christmas! I can’t wait for an opportunity to stand in the aisle of the pharmacy again – I just know it’ll be my turn to be Jesus on one end or the other.