“The Luck of Roaring Camp” is a piece of American fiction from 19th century author Bret Harte.
Maybe you’re familiar with the story, but I’d never heard of it. I had it filed under “future blogs.” Evidently a preacher, Bruce Thielemann, had used it in a sermon several years ago.
Roaring Camp was portrayed as the coarsest, meanest, toughest mining town in the Wild West of 1805. It was a terrible place where theft and murder were commonplace, inhabited entirely by men – and one “coarse, very sinful woman” named Cherokee Sal.
Sal died in the process of giving birth to a baby. The men in that harsh place took her infant and put him in a box that had shipped dynamite sticks with some old flannel rags under him. After burying Sal, they tried to figure out what to do with the baby.
Send him to the closest camp with women that was forty miles away? There were too many dishonest, untrustworthy souls there to trust the baby’s welfare to them.
Try to find a woman they could hire to come to Roaring Camp to be his nurse? No “decent woman” would come there, they decided.
To make a short story shorter still, they decided to keep the baby right there in Roaring Camp – where he thrived and was named Tommy Luck.
They sent one of their number to a town eighty miles away to buy a real cradle. Another was dispatched to Sacramento to get proper blankets and supplies. But a rosewood cradle and baby blankets made the house they were in look filthy.
So those tough men got on their hands and knees and scrubbed the floor clean. That only made the dirty walls more apparent. They washed them down. But clean walls only made the bare windows look like they needed curtains. And so on and so on.
Since babies need lots of sleep, they stopped their raucous brawling and fighting. And as the boy began to imitate sounds and learn language, they cleaned up their vocabularies and stopped swearing. As he began to try to walk and eventually was big enough to play outdoors, they planted grass and flowers in a garden. That was better than the dust and sand and sharp rocks.
Trying to play with little Tommy, their huge hands looked so dirty. And they smelled. So pretty soon the general store was selling lots of soap and shaving gear.
The baby changed everything.
On a far grander scale, in a book identified As non-fiction, another baby was born that literally changed everything.
An angel told a just man named Joseph to take Mary to be his wife, although she was expecting a child. The child was conceived by the Holy Spirit, the angel said. He’s the fulfillment of prophecy. He’s Immanuel–”God with us.” His name? Jesus. And “he will save his people from their sins. (Matt 1:18-23)
The night Jesus was born the angelic choir proclaimed to the Shepherds in the field, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” The angel announced a Savior was born–Christ the Lord! (Lk. 2:8-13)
The baby changed everything.
Jesus changed the way we measure time. He changed the religious landscape. And unsettled the mighty Roman Empire. Preaching Jesus “turned the world upside down” (Ax 17:6)
Jesus has changed and impacted the world’s finest art, literature and music. Education, law, governments, businesses, have all felt the influence of His life.
Historian Kenneth Scott Latourette said, “Jesus is the most influential life ever lived on this planet.” Another historian, Philip Schaff, agreed. “I find the name of Jesus Christ written on the top of every page of modern history,” wrote the 19th century statesman George Bancroft.
More importantly He changed lives. Uneducated fishermen became effective communicators of His message. Enemies became friends. Unbelievers became believers. A persecutor became a preacher. And those who once cried “Crucify Him!” now demanded what to do to be saved and be His disciple. (Acts 2:)
Today, around the world, that baby born 2,000 years is sill changing lives. He grew to manhood and became the light of the world. And would proclaim, “I way the way, the truth and life, no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The message of the crucified Christ resonates with people everywhere. Grace. Mercy. Peace. Pardon. And eternal hope. These continue to touch hearts and meet the needs of a sinful 21st century world.
Truly, He’s the baby that changed everything.
Won’t you accept His invitation, “Come, learn of Me.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman