The Cobbler and His Guest

A Yuletide Legend, by Anne McCollum Boyles

There once lived, in the city of Marseilles, an old shoemaker; loved and
honored by his neighbors, who affectionately called him Father Martin. One
Christmas Eve as he sat alone in his little shop, reading of the visit of
the Wise Men to the infant Jesus, and of the gifts they brought, he said to
himself, “If tomorrow were the first Christmas, and if this Jesus were to be
born in Marseilles this night, I know what I would give him!” He rose from
his stool and took from an overhead shelf two tiny shoes of softest snow-
white leather with bright silver buckles. “I would give him these, my finest
work.” Then he paused and reflected. “But I am a foolish old man,” he
continued…”The Master has no need of my poor gifts.”
Replacing the shoes, he blew out the candle and retired to rest. Hardly had
he closed his eyes it seemed, when he heard a voice call his name…”Martin!
Martin!” Intuitively he felt a presence. Then the voice spoke
again…”Martin, you have wished to see me. Tomorrow I shall pass by your
window. If you see me, and bid me enter, I shall be your guest at your
Father Martin did not sleep that night for joy, and before it was yet dawn
he rose and swept and tidied up his little shop. He spread fresh sand upon
the floor, and wreathed green boughs of fir along the rafters. On the
spotless linen-covered table he place a loaf of white bread, a jar of honey,
and a pitcher of milk. When all was in readiness, he took up his patient
vigil at the window.
Presently he saw an old street-sweeper pass by, blowing upon his thin,
gnarled hands to warm them. “Poor fellow, he must be half frozen,” thought
Martin. Opening the door he called out to him, “Come in my friend, and warm
yourself, and drink something hot.” The man gratefully accepted the
An hour passed, and Martin saw a young, miserably clothed woman, carrying a
baby. She paused wearily to rest in the shelter of his doorway. The heart of
the old cobbler was touched. Quickly he flung open the door. “Come in and
warm while you rest,” he said to her. “You do not look well,” he remarked.
“I am going to the hospital. I hope they will take me in, and my baby boy,”
she explained. “My husband is at sea, and I am ill, without a soup.”
“Poor child,” said Father Martin. “You must eat something while you are
getting warm. No? Then let me give a cup of milk to the little one. Ah! What
a bright, pretty little fellow he is!…Why, you have put no shoes on him!”
“I have no shoes for him,” sighed the mother.
“Then he shall have this lovely pair I finished yesterday.” And Father
Martin took down from the shelf the soft little snow-white shoes he had
admired the evening before. He slipped them on the child’s feet…they fit
perfectly. Shortly the poor young mother went on her way, two shoes in her
hand and tearful with gratitude.
And Father Martin resumed his post at the window. Hour after hour went by,
and although many people passed his window, and although many people shared
the hospitality of the old cobbler, the expected guest did not appear.
“It was only a dream,” he sighed, with a heavy heart. “I did hope and
believe, but He has not come.”
Suddenly, so it seemed to his weary eyes, the room was flooded with a
strange light, and to the cobbler’s astonished vision, there appeared before
him, one by one, the poor street sweeper, the sick mother and her child, and
all the people whom he had aided during the day and each smiled at him and
said: “Have you not seen me? Did I not sit at your table?” Then they
vanished from his view.
At last, out of the silence, Father Martin heard again the gentle voice
repeating the old familiar words: “Whosoever shall receive one such in my
name, receiveth me…for I was hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty,
and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in…verily I say
unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my
brethren, you have done it unto me.”