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The Least of These

And he has the croup!

I was exhausted. It was the middle of the week before Christmas, and on top of all the things I was planning to do that week, my two-year-old Timmy came down with croup. My husband and I lost sleep with him for two nights in a row, caring for him, listening to his raspy breathing, or worrying about whether we'd need to take him to the emergency room. Timmy had nearly died of croup when he was 11 months old. We'd gotten him to the emergency room just in time to save his life. And now he had croup again—at Christmas!

I looked wearily over my kitchen table, cluttered with ingredients and utensils for baking cookies. I'd offered to make a bunch of Christmas cookies for my husband to take to his business meeting. Last night, I hosted a birthday party for my oldest daughter. And the day before that, I prepared dishes of food for a funeral meal. Now tonight was another Christmas party for my husband's best friend who was back in town from out of state. I was supposed to make a couple dishes for that, and go with my family. My going, obviously, was now out of the question, with Timmy sick with croup. My husband could go, of course, I thought bitterly.

Husbands' plans keep going whether children are sick or not. Husbands can go to parties anyway, because it's the wives who have to stay home and take care of the sick children. I'd had to stay home from the same Christmas party two years before for the same reason—sick children.

I'd worked hard to make all the cookies and pies and dishes of food for all the goings on lately, but guess who got to eat them? Not me! Guess who got to enjoy the parties? Not me! I had to stay home with a sick child and peer into the refrigerator to try to find leftovers to warm up.

Timmy has the croup. Mommy can't go to the party, I thought. I knew I was sinking into self pity, and wasn't sure how to get out of it.

"Lord," I prayed, "Please help me! I don't want to feel this way."

After a few moments, I felt the Lord remind me, Didn't you ask me for someone special to help this Christmas season?

Yes, I remembered. It was always my prayer to help somebody truly needy, and when several weeks before I'd asked the Lord for such an opportunity this year, I'd wondered if it wouldn't be someone close to home. But my little boy? It didn't seem like "helping others" just to stay home and take care of my two-year-old sick with croup. He was the same child I took care of all the time. There wasn't a lot of heroism in that. No stars, crowns, bells, whistles, or angel wings.

Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me, the Lord reminded me of his words in Matthew 25:40.

The least of these—my own little boy. I was the only one who could minister to Timmy like he needed the most, for it was Mommy he needed. When he choked and coughed and could hardly breathe, it was to me he ran, just like Jesus as a boy must have run to Mary when he needed comfort or care.

I chose Mary to take care of my Son, God continued speaking gently. And I chose you to take care of Timmy this Christmas season.

Yes, Lord, my heart cried, as more tears spilled from my eyes. If it were baby Jesus, I'd be so happy to take care of him. And yes, I'll take care of my own little boy-as if he were Jesus!

Later that night, I sat in the rocking chair in the living room with little Timmy snuggled up against me. Only the cheerful Christmas tree lights were on. With the fire crackling in the woodstove, the room was warm and cozy. I thought of the friends and relatives and my husband and two children who were having fun at the party. But then I thought of Mary and baby Jesus in that stable in Bethlehem. Never before had I felt quite so close to Mary, and to the opportunity to minister to Jesus in the same humble way that she had done 2,000 years ago. Never had it seemed such a privilege to rock my own sick baby to sleep.

A deep serenity stole over my spirit as I gently cradled Timmy and reveled in the quiet peacefulness of the evening. I'd missed the party, but I'd gained new insight into what serving Christ really meant. I couldn't doubt the sweet Spirit of the Christ of Christmas that hovered near and graced the room with a hallowed presence.

Anna Lucas is a freelance writer and stay-at-home wife and mom who homeschools four of their six children. She and her family live in Colorado.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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