Bill was the superintendent of a large rescue mission in a huge American city. He was a fine Christian with a big heart who had the responsibility of handling a large staff that ministered to very needy men in the heart of the city. These ‘skid row derelicts’ came to the mission daily looking for food, clothes and shelter for survival.
Frank was one of these men, a long-term alcoholic. He was a regular at the rescue mission. In fact, he was a confirmed freeloader. Day after day, year after year, Frank was there, getting whatever he could. He always had his hand out; he was always taking advantage of those who worked sacrificially at the mission, many of them volunteers. When he wasn’t drunk, he was at the mission. But he never once seemed to make any effort to change.
Bill, the superintendent, finally lost his patience with Frank. One day, tired and emotionally drained by a hectic schedule, Bill took Frank aside. He said to him very firmly, ‘Frank, I’m disgusted with you. You have been coming in here for years. You go out and get drunk, and then you come back here every night for a free ride. You use our showers, eat our food, use our beds, take the clothes we offer, and you make no effort to give anything back. And you seem to make no effort whatever to change. I’ve had it with you Frank. Please leave and don’t come back.’
Without saying a word, Frank walked out of the building. At the end of the day, Bill turned off his office lights and headed for the front door of the mission, thinking of the restful evening with his family that awaited him at home. But when Bill opened the front door of the building, he was hit in the face by cold sheets of rain driven by a strong, gusty wind. Immediately the question struck him, ‘What about Frank? How can I possibly go home to a warm fire when he is out there somewhere in this storm? No way. I can’t do it.’
So, Bill grabbed an umbrella and ran out into the driving rain looking for Frank. Getting soaked himself, Bill scurried around the dingy downtown streets, peering through the pelting rain. Finally, he spotted a figure huddled in the narrow doorway of a deserted building, holding a newspaper over his head. Bill approached, and sure enough, it was Frank. He was shivering from the cold and wet. Bill grabbed Frank and, looking into his eyes, said, ‘Frank, I want you to come back. I’m going to give you one more chance.’ Frank and Bill shivered together as they shared the umbrella back to the mission.
A few years after that, Bill died suddenly. The Board of Directors of the mission prayerfully considered who they could find to replace the seemingly indispensable Bill as superintendent of the mission. They unanimously agreed on one man. His name?
Yes, Frank, the lazy, dirty, drunken freeloader. Yes, Frank, who also got ‘one more chance.’ The potential was there all the time. That pathetic creature huddled in the rain was potentially Frank, the superintendent of the mission. Frank, the one man to carry on the great work of his predecessor, Bill.
Christ made the difference. The potential is there in all of us. Don’t give up on yourself. And the potential is there in others, too. Don’t give up on others, because the apparently ‘hopeless case’ may turn out to be another Frank. Remember, God is not through with us yet. “All things are possible with God.”
What does this have to do with Christmas? Everything. Advent is the celebration of God giving everyone another chance. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17)