It was a cold, December night as Judy finished working the late shift. Although warned not to walk through the parking lot alone, she was in a hurry. Nearing the car, Judy felt rather than heard a presence rushing toward her. A rough hand grabbed her by the neck jerking back hard. Both feet left the ground as she felt herself lifted high. Then there was the too brief sensation of free falling through the air as she was flung to the hard pavement. Dazed and in pain, Judy smelled a foul odor of stale cigarettes and cheap wine as the attacker began to loosen the strap of her purse. Before there was time to scream, she saw his scowl and the flash of his knife —

Ed, a pastor in the area was driving home from a long and frustrating meeting at the church when his headlights picked up the attacker who upon seeing Ed’s car left Judy and ran. “Somebody needs help,” thought Ed as he slowed the car down for a moment – and then resumed driving. He rationalized: “It’s dangerous and I could get hurt. Something needs to be done about the violence in this community. Maybe, I can hold a prayer vigil at the church.”

Judy had no idea how many times she had been slashed and stabbed but sensed that somehow she must find help or die. Slowly and painfully, Judy began to crawl toward the nearby street desperate for any passing motorist to see her. Struggling to her feet, in pain and nearly blind from the blood in her eyes, Judy began to stagger down the roadway —

Phyllis was excited about the upcoming Christmas Cantata. The practice music was in her car. “Joy to the World, the Lord is Come,” she sang in perfect harmony with the accompanying voices. So intent on singing, Phyllis almost hit Judy staggering across the roadway. Quickly she swerved the car while simultaneously honking the horn. “Watch where you’re going!” she shouted. After a moment she calmed down and resumed singing, “Let every heart prepare Him room –”

As the car raced by, Judy cried out: “Somebody, please help me!” collapsed and passed out.

The next few hours were a blur in Judy’s memory, but through the haze she vaguely remembered hearing someone whisper: “It’s okay. You are going to be all right!” As she regained consciousness, she noticed the hospital surroundings. A nurse stood nearby looking at monitors. Then Judy realized the tubes and wires from the machines were attached to her. She heard herself asking the nurse: “What happened?”

The nurse looked her way and said, “You were stabbed and beaten. You’re fortunate to be alive.”

“How did I get here?” Judy asked.

The nurse smiled and replied, “You were rescued by one of our hospital custodians, Jean Harris. On the way home from work she saw you, called the rescue squad and looked after you. She insisted on staying with you throughout the night to make sure you were all right.”

Jesus said: “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the one who was attacked?”

The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.” (Luke 10:36-37)

I believe we are given opportunities to help someone in need almost daily. They are not as dramatic as the one presented here but they are opportunities. How will you respond? Christmas is an especially difficult time for many. How will you offer help?

Will you see the opportunity, slow down for a moment but then continue on your way, afraid to take a risk?

Will you be too busy with your Christmas preparations and hectic lifestyle to notice?

Or will you stop whatever you are doing and make a difference for someone in need?

This Christmas, spend time in prayer, attend worship and be alert. “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Will you see?

Will you act?

Look for the opportunity to show mercy to someone today.

Merry Christmas.