Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Bethlehem Express


The train pulled into the station as people were hurrying and scurrying to their next destination. A young man looked confused as the activity had most people on the move except him. He glanced around and fidgeted with his clothes and kept rubbing his eyes. He had a ticket in his hands and was listening to a voice over the loud speaker calling out times, arrivals, departures and names of destinations. He heard the name Bethlehem express leaving for Pennsylvania and heard the announcer say it was leaving on track 6 in fifteen minutes. He immediately spun around and asked a conductor the way to track 6. He was given directions and told he had just enough time to make it. He finally arrived at track six and boarded the train. He went down two cars and sat near a window as the train slowly began to move. He closed his eyes for a moment and thought about his last words to his mom. “Yes mom, I take the Bethlehem express and get off at Bethlehem. Aunt Lil will be there to meet me.” She had explained how they were caught up in business and had several destinations with their business but they would see him the day before Christmas.
I was fourteen years old and they counted on me to be grown up and to follow their directions. I kidded my parents about the name Bethlehem as they were not religious. After all, it was the name of the town where Christ was born. I added that some of my friends believed in Jesus. They told me about the man Jesus Christ but I wasn’t buying any of it because my folks told me it was just a story made up so people would feel better about life. Then I remembered my Aunt Lil believed in Jesus Christ. She was always happy and nice since I could remember.

Just then the train began to pick up speed.  I saw a man running alongside the train yelling to the conductor who moved the gate and let him jump on. He made his way to the car where he sat across from me. He introduced himself and said his name was Mathew Carefree. I told him my name was Jeffrey Spindle. We both laughed as our names were somewhat different. He asked me where I was going and I said “Bethlehem.” To my surprise he said he was going there also and since it was a six hour trip so we might as well get acquainted.

We talked about many things and finally we got around to Bethlehem. He told me how the name originated and how Christ had been born there -- not the city we were going to but the original city where Jesus was born. He began to talk about the life of Christ and I looked over to the other side of a car where I observed two kids listening intensely to what he had to say. He spotted them and asked them if they were interested. They said they were as they were Christians.  “Christians?” I said, and Mathew replied, “Those who believe in Christ and follow his teachings.”

As Mathew spoke in glowing terms about the son of God, other kids on the train began to come close and listen also.  He had a way of saying things that kept you interested. He spoke about Christ’s life on earth about his ministry and his final days and dying on the cross for all of our sins. I must have shown some skepticism for he said: “Is it hard for you to believe, Jeffrey, that one man can die for all of our sins?” The kids were now staring at me and I said:  “To die is one thing but to come back after three days is a little farfetched.  I had an uncle who died and he never came back.” Mathew stopped then and did something unusual. He looked like he was praying but his countenance had changed and when he looked back at me he said: “Jesus Christ was no ordinary man Jeffrey. In fact, He was the son of God, so perfect and so loving that millions have gone forth in His name.”

He then spoke about the miracle of the resurrection and the witnesses who saw Christ who testified of Him and said “He lives who once was dead”.

Just then the parents called their kids back as it was lunch time. It seems we had all brought a sack lunch except for two little girls and their mother. Mathew offered to share his lunch with them but was interrupted by a couple who said they had plenty and invited the girls to sit with them. The girls thanked the couple and their little daughter said: “Jesus would want us to share.” Mathew looked over at me and said: “What are you thinking?”  “Well, Mathew, it wasn’t Jesus who made us share; it was just the right thing to do. He looked at me with a kind expression and said: “The spirit of Christ works with all men and we act on His promptings and influence.”

I was about to disagree but I felt impressed not to say anything. It was then that Mathew leaned forward and said: “Listen, the children are singing.” I said: “I don’t hear any children singing.” He said, “You will” and no sooner had he gotten the words out of his mouth when I could hear the singing. They started to sing Christmas songs. They sang all the old favorites and all of a sudden Mathew began to sing “Oh Holy Night” in a beautiful voice. A hush fell over the train car as this plain looking man took on a radiant look.

 Mathew looked up and said. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” There was a moment of reflection but soon the conversations turned to Christmas, children and presents. Soon a kid about my age named Charlie came over to sit with us and asked Mathew a zinger of a question. “Does God answer prayers?” Mathew looked at him for moment and said: “Why do you ask?” Charlie said: “My brother prayed and prayed to have his club foot fixed but it didn’t happen and yet he still believes in Jesus.”  “That’s your twin brother, is it not Charlie?” Charlie sputtered, “Why, yes, but how did you know?” Mathew said the Lord had told him. Charlie just stared at him in unbelief. Mathew went on. He said:  “Your parents, at this very moment, have received word that the Shriners Hospital will be helping Bill and they will examine him and treat his foot in the New Year.”   “You know my brother’s name?”

Charlie said: “You have to be kidding.”  Mathew said: “I assure you it is true. When you get to Bethlehem call them and find out.” Charlie choked out, “Boy Oh Boy” and then put his head down and cried.

Just then the conductor came through and said Mathew had arranged for everyone on this car to have a free cup of hot chocolate. We were surprised when the cups were considerably larger. “After we had had our hot chocolate, the steward came to gather up the cups but I could scarcely believe what I saw. The cups were the normal size. I asked him what happened to the bigger cups and he said, “What bigger cups? These are the cups we always use.”

The train was moving at a fast clip.  Mathew said he had to go. He reached in his brief case and handed me a Bible. We shook hands and Mathew left. I sat there wondering what all had taken place. I noticed a note sticking out of the Bible. It said, “Jeffrey, look out the window.”  I looked out and as the train sped along, there was Mathew waving good bye and I could hear his words so clearly. “So long, Jeffrey,  read the Good Book and remember Christ lives. I know He lives for I am his servant.” Then he was gone.  I leaned back in my seat and asked myself, “Did this really happen?” I was still on the train, of course, so I went over and asked Charlie: “Did we just talk to a guy name Mathew?” Charlie looked at me funny like and said:  “Of course we did.”  I added: “Look at this bible he gave me. I just waved goodbye to him out the window.” Suddenly Charlie looked at me like a light had just gone on and said: ”He gave me a bible too. There was a note saying to look out the window and there was Mathew waving goodbye. The note said Bill would be alright.” We both looked at each other and said at the exact same time: “The train was moving too fast for him to get off. You don’t suppose . . . . . .?”  Our voices trailed off.  Charlie said: “If that don’t beat all.” Charlie and I sat silently for a minute and I said, “Who would believe us?” Charlie said it didn’t matter. God would believe us since he sent Mathew to us. Charlie and I said good bye as we promised to stay in touch.

It wasn’t long before we were at the Bethlehem station. My mind was busy with all that that had taken place this day. The train station looked extra bright and was decorated in the finest detail with Christmas decorations that seemed to shine and twinkle and leave you in awe with an almost magical feeling. Then there was The Nativity scene. There were Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus. Wise men, and animals and shepherds were looking at the Christ child. I blinked and rubbed my eyes for there was Mathew dressed as one of the wise men. I stared, not daring to take my eyes off him, but I did, and when I looked again Mathew had changed.  I knew then that this gentle kind man was full of light as he raised his eyes to the heavens and was gone.
Next to the nativity scene was a sign that simply said “Believe”. Right then I spotted Aunt Lil.  I ran to her, gave her a hug, and said: “Aunt Lil, would you tell me about Jesus.” She looked so surprised but said: “What would you like to know?"

Digby

1 comment:

  1. This was wonderful and brilliant. Thank you for sharing it with us!

    ReplyDelete