by Leo Tolstoy
Papa Panov is an elderly cobbler who lives by himself in a small Russian village.
His wife has passed and his children are all grown up. Alone on Christmas Eve in his shop, Papa Panov decides to open the old family Bible and reads the Christmas story about the birth of Jesus.
That night, he has a dream in which Jesus comes to him. Jesus says that he will visit Papa Panov in person tomorrow, but that he will have to pay special attention since the disguised Jesus will not reveal his identity.
Papa Panov wakes up the next morning, excited about Christmas Day and meeting his potential visitor. He notices that a street sweeper is working early in on a cold winter morning. Touched by his hard work and dejected appearance, Papa Panov invites him inside for a hot cup of coffee.
Later in the day, a single mother with a worn face too old for her young age walks down the street clutching her baby. Again, Papa Panov invites them in to warm up and even gives the baby a beautiful brand new pair of shoes that he made.
As the day goes by, Papa Panov keeps his eyes peeled for his holy visitor. But he only sees neighbors and beggars on the street. He decides to feed the beggars. Soon it is dark and Papa Panov retires indoors with a sigh, believing his dream was only a dream. But then the voice of Jesus speaks and it is revealed that Jesus came to Papa Panov in each and every person he helped today, from the street sweeper to the local beggar.
What does it all mean?
The voice of Jesus comes to Papa Panov at the end saying,
“‘I was hungry and you fed me,’ he said. ‘I was naked and you clothed me. I was cold and you warmed me. I came to you today in every one of those you helped and welcomed.’”
This relates to Matthew 25:40,
“For I was hungry, and you gave me meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me drink: I was a stranger, and you took me in…Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it unto me.”
In being kind and charitable, Papa Panov reaches Jesus.
Tolstoy’s short story serves as a good reminder that the spirit of Christmas doesn’t revolve around getting material presents, but rather giving to others beyond your immediate family.
Enjoy your holiday. Treasure your friends. Love your family. Be charitable. Remember the true spirit of Christmas.