My colleague Trey Hammond, Pastor of La Mesa Presbyterian Church wrote this article for his congregation's newsletter. I like to share it with you -
Blessings in this Christmas season! I hope you’ll celebrate the full twelve days of Christmas, until Epiphany on January 6th.. By extending the Christmas horizon, we have the chance to let all the implications of the season inform our lives after some of the dust has settled from all the social obligations of the season.
I remembered the Chesterton poem this Advent season as I participated in the Homeless Memorial Vigil last week at First United Methodist Church. This is a national vigil held near the winter solstice to remember those who perished while living on or near the streets. Sadly, there were 66 names this year in comparison to 48 last year, but even at the event several more names were added. Such a tragedy! The vigil includes a candlelit reading of the names of those being remembered.
There is also in the service an opportunity for remembrances. Poems are read, songs sung, and stories told to honor the dead. One woman came to speak of her son, who she remembered as a sweet young man who lost a battle with drugs. She came with a framed photo of him and there was not room on the lectern to set it. Just in front of the mike there was small manger, obviously a part of the Christmas decoration at the church, full of straw, but empty of the Christ child figure.
The woman placed the image of her son in the manger and talked about her love for him, his sufferings and hers, but brimmed with a deep faith that God loved him and had received his life. She also affirmed her own sense of God’s love in her life. She remembered that God is especially close to those on the edge of the world, that Jesus was born practically homeless, so he especially understood. It was a beautiful action and some heartfelt theology. God with us and us with God. That is what she spoke of, her son in Christ’s manger, and Christ with us in the vulnerable places of our lives. The meaning of the incarnation was crystal clear in that sanctuary for a community that often feels their homelessness places outside acceptance, even by the church. At Christmas, we are accepted, we are invited home, God is with us and we are welcomed. All of us! This loving mother placed her son in a manger as had a young mother long ago and they trusted that sacred place in the world would be resting place for their beloved. The were both right! I look forward to the day when we have created such a just, compassionate society that such vigils are no longer needed.
I pray that this season will be as the poet suggests, “a place where humanity shall come home.” May all your gatherings and partings, your joys and longings, connect you with the God who loves us and is with us.