Once upon a time, not so very long ago, there was a very good man. Some people say that there are no men who very good but it isn't so. There are some good men here and there, now and then. There was one in Finland in the 1500's and another one in Nepal in the 1700's. Even good things happen once in a while.
This good man, let us call him Howard which isn't his name, wasn't perfect. No one, no matter how good they are, is perfect. No one has been perfect for the last 6000 years and even he couldn't keep it up. There has been a perfect woman since then but she had a dispensation.
Although Howard wasn't perfect he was very good. Have I mentioned that he was very good? Like many good men he prayed a lot. Some good men don't pray but most of them do or so I am told. I wouldn't know; I'm not very good, myself.
One Christmas Eve, I'm not exactly sure which one, perhaps the one just coming up, Howard was praying by himself. Howard, you see, wasn't married. It's an odd thing but most very good men are unmarried. I imagine that this is a good thing; very good men are probably insufferable husbands.
As Howard was praying there was a knock on the door. A lesser man might have been irritated that his prayers were interrupted. Howard, however, was a very good man (Have I mentioned that Howard was a very good man?) and he never let himself be irritated by inconveniences of the world. He never complained about people who jump lines and push their way to the front which is why Howard spent an inordinate amount of time standing in line.
Being a patient man, Howard rose from his prayers and answered the door. There was a man at the door. Howard knew immediately who He was. Oh, he didn't look like the pictures that have been painted through the centuries and the wooden statues of Him hanging from the cross but Howard recognized Him. It may have been because Howard was a very good man; I'm sure I wouldn't have recognized Him but, then, I'm not very good.
Howard knew what to do; he welcomed Him in. Howard, you see, had very good manners as well. These he learned from his mother. She was a good woman. Perhaps she wasn't as good as Howard (so few people are) but she had excellent manners and had taught Howard well.
You and I might have babbled a bit in His presence; I certainly would have. Howard didn't. He simply said, "Lord, I am yours. Do with me what you will. If this is the Rapture, I am ready. If is not, Your will is mine."
He bade Howard to sit down. He said to Howard, "The Rapture was long ago. I spoke the simple truth when I said that some would still live when I returned. This world belongs to the Enemy now."
Howard replied, "Lord, I am but a man. I do not understand."
He said, "Howard, I can go anywhere, even into Hell, to rescue those who ready to be saved. I have come here for you."
Howard replied, "Lord, if you will have me then I am yours but I must ask, what of all the other people in the world. Are they destined for Hell? Can you not save them too?"
He said, "Howard, you do not understand. This world is Hell."
Howard thought this over and then said very carefully, "Lord, if you will have me then I must go but in my heart I know that I am not good enough for You. I am fit only for this world."
He said, "I do not command you; I cannot command you. The choice is yours. Come with me if you will or stay if you will not."
Howard replied, "Lord, if this be Hell then truly this is all I am fit for. If the choice is mine then I choose to stay here."
He looked very sad and said, "If that is your choice, so be it. I do not wonder that you choose not to come with me. No one ever has." With that He vanished.
Howard did his best the next day to keep Christmas as the world keeps Christmas. He went to a party, dined very well, drank champagne, and kissed the wife of another man. He didn't become evil. Indeed he kept on being a very good man. He was in the habit of being good and of all the bad habits in the world that is one of the hardest habits to break.
Even though he kept on being good he did make one change; he never prayed again.
This page was last updated December 15, 1999.