In his short story, “The Luck of Roaring Camp,” Bret Harte tells of a mining town at the turn of the 19th century that was the meanest, toughest mining town in the West. It was reported that there were more murders and thefts there than any other place around. Every day was filled with brawling, cursing, and drinking. It was a terrible place inhabited entirely by men, except for one woman named Cherokee Sal. As events would have it, she became pregnant and then died giving birth to her baby girl.

The men took the baby and put her in a box with some old rags for cover. As they looked at the scene, somehow it just didn’t seem right, so one of the men rode eighty miles to buy a rosewood cradle. When they put her in the beautiful hand carved cradle, the rags that now lined it didn’t look right. Another man rode to Sacramento where he bought some beautiful silk and lace blankets. After placing the baby in the silk and lace lined cradle, one of the men couldn’t help but notice how filthy the floor was next to the new baby and the cradle with silk and lace blankets. So these hardened, tough men got down on their hands and knees and scrubbed the floor until it was spotless. When they finished, they couldn’t help but notice how terrible the walls and ceiling looked next to the floor. Once they were cleaned, it was obvious to all that the windows needed cleaning and curtains put up. And of course, they now had to give up their fighting and brawling so the baby could sleep. The entire atmosphere of “Roaring Camp” began to change.

They took the baby to the mine with them and set her beside the entrance, taking turns to care for her. It didn’t take long to notice what a dirty place the mine entrance was, so they planted flowers and made a garden there. The men would bring shiny stones from within the mine to show the baby, but when they put their hands down next to hers, they noticed how dirty their hands were. Pretty soon, the general store sold out of soap, shampoo, razor blades, and cologne. That baby changed everything.

A little over two thousand years ago, another baby came that changed everything. His miracles and teaching changed the way people thought of God while his life and sacrifice changed the way people could relate to God. In him they could find new life in forgiveness of sin and assurance of a home in heaven. That’s what Christmas is really all about – coming to the Christ child and realizing your need for change. A clean heart, a new spirit, a changed attitude, and abundant life are just the beginning. Jesus makes all the difference in the world!

May each of us experience anew this Christmas the reality of the love of God expressed through the gift of His Son. “But at just the right time, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under law.” (Gal.4:4)

To His Glory,

Pastor Bill