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Let’s Pretend Our Own Christmas Story

Some of the comments on this led to a lot of learning about ministry to the homeless. Still feel God is calling me to some sort of connection to this ministry, but it’s pretty limited now with Julian so sick.

Laughter: Carbonated Grace

Let’s pretend Jesus knocked on your door Christmas day to join you for his birthday celebration.
Can you picture him standing there when you open the door? Can you feel your dawning recognition and surprise. Can you sense your moment of doubt, then feel it washed away by sheer joy? Do his eyes have laughter lines as he smiles with just a hint of fun at surprising you. Does his simple kindness surround you like a comforter?
Picture you inviting him in, stammering as you start to reach out to shake his hand, only to be embraced in a warm hug that brings tears of happiness and wonder to your eyes.
Let’s imagine how he might like to celebrate his birthday with you. Do you think he’d be happy if you asked him to sit down, then hurried to get the best lotion in the house to gently rub his…

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Let’s Pretend Our Own Christmas Story

Let’s pretend Jesus knocked on your door Christmas day to join you for his birthday celebration.
Can you picture him standing there when you open the door? Can you feel your dawning recognition and surprise. Can you sense your moment of doubt, then feel it washed away by sheer joy? Do his eyes have laughter lines as he smiles with just a hint of fun at surprising you. Does his simple kindness surround you like a comforter?
Picture you inviting him in, stammering as you start to reach out to shake his hand, only to be embraced in a warm hug that brings tears of happiness and wonder to your eyes.
Let’s imagine how he might like to celebrate his birthday with you. Do you think he’d be happy if you asked him to sit down, then hurried to get the best lotion in the house to gently rub his worn and callused feet? Would he want to do the same for you? Would you protest because you feel unworthy? Or would you let him help you feel so very tenderly loved?
Maybe he’d accept a cup of coffee and then want to tell you the stories his mom used to tell over and over about giving birth in a dirty drafty barn and about the terror of fleeing to Egypt in the middle of the night with only a few clothes and little food.
Do you think Jesus might just try to fit in by eating second helpings and then nodding off now and then in front of the TV set? Would he accept a glass of wine and grin and ask if you’d like an upgrade?
Or would he possibly suggest, “Why don’t we pack up some of this turkey and dressing and yes, definitely some pie, to take to the people living in those shabby back rooms at the Highland Motel?” Or even ask, “Would you drive me up and down the interstate to check the bridges for homeless people who may need food?”
Or perhaps he’d gently make a more discomforting suggestion that some presents could be returned and the money sent to help refugees from the war in Syria.
Or perhaps he would just look into your eyes all the way to what’s hidden in your heart and quietly say, “If there is someone you have hurt or anyone who has wounded you, will you make me happy by using your phone now to reconcile with them?”
And then you’d remember what he said at that last dinner with his closest friends, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Then you’d feel not guilt, but regret, that you hadn’t thought of celebrating his birthday by doing more for others, even strangers, as he did his whole life.
So, you’d get your coat and gather food, even your favorite fudge pie, to take to others. And you’d see that he was smiling at you as he waved goodbye.
You didn’t feel any condemnation, only his love and a stronger desire to love others as he loves you. Because you know that God did not send his Son into the world to condemn us, but in order that we might be saved by him.
And as you start out, you’d whisper, “Happy Birthday, Jesus.” And you would know he heard.

True Confessions of a LOL Kind

Don’t get hopeful. LOL here means “Little Old Lady.”
I belong to a LOL group in a small church. Last week at our meeting, several LOL’s expressed concerns for the welfare or a growing homeless population in our small rural town. Our church doesn’t have much money and the women who don’t work are mostly between seventy and ninety-three. So, I offered to research the problem to find out the main places the homeless were gathering and what groups were already helping them to see if there was a way for us to contribute to one of those in some small way. The next day I was preparing for my turn to lead part of Sunday’s service by reading the Lectionary Scriptures for that Sunday. All of them were focused on helping the poor, including the Gospel story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, the beggar at his gate. This is a “Come to Jesus and Get with the Program” scripture, plain and simple. So, I gave one of my tiny sermonettes (I call them sermons from the molehill as opposed to on the mount or from the pulpit). And I ended it with,”The question Jesus is asking us today is, ‘Who is the beggar at YOUR gate?”
I had left my purse at the far end of the pew near the door, but when turning the pulpit over to our minister, I sat down at the other end of the pew. Usually my husband is with me, but he was out of town on a family emergency. A few minutes later, an elderly woman came in the door and sat down right behind my purse. She looked shabby enough to be homeless. I happened to have a rare hundred dollar bill that I had been saving for a couple of months in my purse. My first concern, I’m ashamed to confess, was that the woman would steal my hundred dollars. I didn’t want to be obvious about this by scooting across the empty pew and grabbing my purse. About then I noticed that she was crying. Instead of concern, I saw this as a chance to slide down and give her some kleenex out of my purse and then just sit there hanging on to my money. Another LOL saw her crying and came over to console her and find out what was wrong. It turned out she was being evicted from a room she rented, because she was behind in her rent. Well, I sat there thinking “beggar at my gate!” So, I finally got my hundred dollar bill out and handed it to her. Instead of being happy about doing that, I just consoled myself that she hadn’t gotten my credit card. Talk about your LOLC…(That’s Little Old Lady Curmudgeon.)
Any way, one of our Deacons went with her after church and paid her rent and a couple from the neighborhood took her to the grocery and bought her food. Well I’m sure she thought Christmas had come early, because she insisted that she wanted to keep coming to our church if someone would give her a ride on Sundays. I’ll be honest, we’re a liberal church and it’s much more natural for us to take care of people’s physical needs than spiritual. Though preferably at a moderate distance. And liberal though we are, she looked pretty flea bitten. So far nobody, including yours truly, has offered to pick her up. My first thought was we’d better find a bus, because when she went back with the “good news,” the rest of the almost homeless people living where she did were going to want to come too.
My friend, the LOL Deacon, has started planning on gathering help from some of our more prominent citizens to find a building to house the homeless, hire a director, and get grants to underwrite it’s upkeep. I confess that right now that sounds like a totally overwhelming project to me, but I am trying to be open to the grace to at least pick up our new friend, Wanda, and bring her to church on Sunday. Feel free to pray for all concerned. When I was a new Christian, I was so idealistic and impractical, I ended up getting literally robbed by people I helped and my children harmed even by people in Christian ministry that I took into my home. So, now I’m trying to “be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Mt.10:16 Funny thing, the name of our church’s women’s group is “The Doves.”

Eileen, the reluctant Christian

Come, Lord Jesus

Christmas trees, decorations, Christmas music, even in stores pushing the season earlier and earlier for their own purposes, all fill me with wonderful memories, anticipation and joy. I’ve learned over my seventy-nine years, that what puts the focus on Christ at Christmas is my own hunger for his presence.

Advent is the traditional pre-Christmas season of preparing our hearts for his coming.
Those four weeks were arbitrarily set centuries ago to reflect the four thousand years that the world waited in darkness, longing for his coming. Many years ago, I began on the first Sunday of Advent to pray each day, “Come, Lord Jesus.” Then I watch expectantly for him to become present in small, but recognizable ways in my heart and life.

And some years my heart and mind are actually attentive enough to recognize his coming.

One Christmas Eve, our children and grandchildren were all at our home, surrounded by the friendly reds and greens of Christmas and delicious smells teasing from the kitchen. In one bedroom, a grand-baby snuggled into sleep, while in others whispering parents wrapped and ribbonned Santa secrets. Only Granddad was missing, out doing his traditional Christmas Eve shopping.

As excited older grandchildren were setting out to explore the woods and creek, I was making a clean up sweep through the holiday chaos. (Having ended up the “cleaner upper” by default, I was grumbling to myself a little.)

And one preschooler, too young for exploring and too old for a nap, went from room to room knocking on doors only to be told that he couldn’t come in. When I found little David sobbing forlornly in the middle of all the Christmas glitter, I decided to console him(and me) with an outing to feed the ducks that winter over on the lake in town.

When we arrived at the lake, the hungry ducks gobbled up our bread crusts so quickly
and ferociously, that we began to fear we would soon become part of their Christmas Eve
menu.

As we took refuge in the car, I heard our parish church bells ringing for the special Christmas Eve children’s service, The Mass of the Bells. Since the children get to sing all their favorite carols and even ring bells to celebrate the birth of Christ, it seemed like a Christmas serendipity for David. Looking at our faded jeans and muddy tennis shoes, I hesitated, but remembering the ragged shepherds at the first Christmas, I headed on to church anyway.

For lack of having his own bell, David rang my key chain as he sang with off key gusto. Then, as all the children gathered around our parish priest on the floor of the sanctuary to talk about the Christmas Story, David somehow managed to squirm all the way to the front of the group. When Father asked what happened when Mary and Joseph
knocked on the door of the Inn, David’s response rang out, “They wouldn’t let them in.”
Then, with a sudden rush of outraged feeling, he shouted louder, “They wouldn’t open the door!”

It seemed like he remembered his feelings about closed doors earlier at home and identified with the Holy Family.

And then when Father asked how they would respond to Jesus knocking at the door of their hearts right now, David sang out with conviction,

“Come in Jesus. Come right on in!”

On our way home, David joyfully assured me that even if others sometimes didn’t let children in, he and Jesus always would.  At his own level he made the connection between his life and the Gospel story, even realizing that opening his heart to Jesus, also meant opening his heart to others.

And my heart was filled with the joy of Christmas, of seeing Jesus being born once more
in the heart of a child.

As a post script I’d like to share more about David. When he was a college junior he and several other college students took cold water and hamburgers down town in the Memphis August heat to share with the hungry and homeless. As they did this, one man asked for them to pray over him (David said that they needed God’s grace for that). But as they prayed, others began coming forward asking, not for money, or even food, but for prayer. Since then, David has taught in schools in Indonesia, Afghanistan, and Bolivia.

Whenever the stores start Christmas music, August or October, let it be our cue to start praying the prayer of our hearts, “Come, Lord Jesus. Come.”

Re-posted for the Christmas season 2013 and 2016.