Editor's note: This piece originally appeared in Fox News Opinion on December 25, 2009. Its message is timeless and we are pleased to share it with you again.
A long time ago a priest friend, Father Judge said, "Come with me this Christmas Eve. I want to show you something.” As I approached a dark building in the rainy shadow of Times Square I was more fearful than excited. -- Midnight mass at a shelter for homeless pregnant women all very much alone in the world except for the nuns who ran their protectorate. As mass began in a small room with a kitchen table as an altar, I wondered what would life hold for them and their babies when no one had room in their lives for them but those nuns. On Christmas Eve, there was no room at the inn except at a converted tenement building on a lonely side street in a neighborhood called "Hells Kitchen."
As the Christmas Mass began I was nervous because I was one of the few men in the room and selfishly sad that on the ultimate night of anticipation I was with the loneliest people in New York not at the one of the city's majestic cathedrals or at a tree trimming party in the best part of town.
From a small bag near the altar the good Father gently removed a baby -- a baby doll made of plastic wrapped in a towel. Our eyes widened in puzzlement. He cradled the baby in the fold of his vestment as the sleepy women came alive. He asked, "Where would Jesus want to be tonight?" He paused and answered excitedly. "With you of course celebrating his birthday” and he carefully handed the baby to a freckle-faced pregnant woman-child -- maybe 17-years-old and urged her, "Hold the Christ Child." She didn’t respond -- again he whispered -- “Hold him…”
She finally pulled the baby close to her chest and as she did she began to weep, tears streaming over a broad smile. And the child was passed from woman-child to woman-child -- alternately petted and fussed about. Passed from person to person suddenly it was then my turn and I was hesitant. The woman seated next to me turned to me and,” It's your turn, Mister. Please hold baby Jesus” as she took my hand and passed me what had been a mere doll a few minutes before. I agreed.
And for the very first time I held Jesus in my arms and the entire room beamed in my direction as if I was their own brother. A cassette recorder played a carol “What child is this?” and the tinny sounding melody of "Greensleeves" resonated through the parlor.
"What Child is this/ who laid to rest/ On Mary’s lap is sleeping /Whom angels greet with anthems sweet while shepherds watch are keeping/ This, this, is Christ the king/ Whom shepherds worship and angels sing/ Haste haste to bring him praise / The Babe, the son of Mary."
As I have come to tell our daughters, Veronica and Blanche, in the grimy shadow of Times Square I discovered forever what choirs of angels, oxen, shepherds and kings discovered in a little town called Bethlehem -- the hope of the world.
Peter Johnson, Jr. is an attorney and Fox News contributor.