The Christmas Guest by Edwin Markham

The Christmas Guest


It happened one day near December’s end

Two neighbors called on an old-time friend,

And they found his shop so meager and poor

Made bright with boughs from ceiling to floor,

And Conrad was sitting with face a-shine

When he suddenly stopped as he stitched a twine,

And said, “Old Friends, at dawn today

When the cock was crowing the night away

The Lord appeared in a dream to me

And said, ‘I am coming your guest to be!’

So I’ve been busy with feet astir

Strewing my shop with branches of fir.

The table is spread and the kettle is shined

And over the rafters the holly is twined,

And now I will wait for my Lord to appear

And listen closely so I will hear

His step as he nears my humble place,

Then I’ll open the door and look on His face.”


So his friends went home and left Conrad alone,

For this was the happiest day he had known.

For long since his family had passed away

And Conrad had spent many a sad Christmas Day.

But he knew with the Lord as his great guest

This Christmas would be the dearest and best.

So he listened with only joy in his heart,

And with every sound he would rise with a start,

And look for the Lord to be at the door

Like the dream he had a few hours before.


So he ran to the window after hearing a sound,

But all he could see on the snow-covered ground

Was a shabby beggar whose shoes were torn

And all of his clothes were ragged and worn.

But Conrad was touched and went to the door

And he said, “Your feet must be frozen and sore.

I have some shoes in my shop for you

And a coat that will keep you warmer, too.”


So with grateful heart the man went away

But Conrad noticed the time of day.

He wondered what made the dear Lord so late

And how much longer he’d have to wait.

Then he heard a knock and ran to the door

But it was only a stranger once more.

A bent old lady with a shawl of black

And a bundle of kindling piled on her back.

She asked for only a place to rest

But that was reserved for Conrad’s great guest.

Yet her voice seemed to plead, “Don’t send me away

Let me rest for a while on this Christmas Day.”

So Conrad brewed her a steaming cup

And told her to sit at the table and sup.


But after she left, he was filled with dismay,

For he saw that the hours were slipping away

And the Lord had not come as he said he would

And Conrad felt sure he had misunderstood.

When out of the stillness he heard a cry,

“Please help me and tell me where am I.”

So again he opened his friendly door

And stood disappointed as twice before.

It was only a child who had wandered away

And was lost from her family on Christmas Day.

Again Conrad’s heart was heavy and sad,

But he knew he could make this little girl glad.

So he called her in and wiped her tears

And quieted all her childish fears.

Then he led her back to her home once more,

But as he entered his own darkened door,

He knew that the Lord was not coming today

For the hours of Christmas had passed away.


So he went to his room and knelt down to pray

And Conrad asked, “Lord, why did you delay?

What kept you from coming to call on me,

For I wanted so much your face to see.”

Then soft in the silence, a voice he heard,

“Lift up your head for I kept my word.

Three times my shadow crossed your floor

Three times I came to your lowly door;

For I was the beggar with bruised cold feet;

I was the woman you gave something to eat;

And I was the child on the homeless street.

Three times I knocked, three times I came in,

And each time I found the warmth of a friend.

Of all the gifts, love is the best;

I was honored to be your Christmas Guest.”


Edwin Markham