Scripture: He helps us in all our troubles, so that we are able to help others who have all kinds of troubles, using the same help that we ourselves have received from God. Just as we have shared in Christ’s many sufferings, so also through Christ we share in God’s great help. (2 Corinthians: 4-5)
Meditation: My father was an alcoholic. I have never written those words before. It has taken me over 50 years to be able to acknowledge that hurt and shame in my life. My father was a caring man with one of the best senses of humor on the earth, but he wrestled with demons for nearly all his 84 years. To see him at work as a middle-class government bureaucrat one would not have sensed the brokenness in his life, or for that matter the brokenness his drinking brought to his family. Brokenness is not often used to describe those of us in the middle class. No, we reserve it for the poor, the sick, and the homeless. But the journey to Christmas is about God’s reaching out to heal our brokenness. The gift of Christmas is Jesus’ promise of healing, peace, and hope for all his children, no matter their status in life.
Christ House is a medical recovery facility for homeless men and women in inner-city Washington, DC. On the first floor of the facility is an all-purpose room used for meetings, dining, and worship. On this day, the Easter Sunday worship was just beginning. Crowded into the room was an array of God’s children…rich suburbanites and poor inner-city residents, old black patients and young white volunteers, healthy neighbors and sick guests.
As the service began, Pastor Allen Goetcheus asked the community’s spiritual counselor, Sr. Marcella to say a few words. Her words were simple but direct, and there wasn’t a soul in the room who did not instantly understand how profound they were. Looking out on the congregation of men and women battered but unbeaten by life, she smiled and said. “If you don’t believe in resurrection you haven’t spent any time at Christ House.”
The gift of Christ House is that resurrections, big and small, are a daily occurrence. For some it is one day of sobriety after decades of alcohol use. For another it is the report that the HIV once consuming his body has been slowed to a stop, and for others it is the once unimaginable news that he is well and there is a home to move into.
Through the brokenness of those with whom we worshipped at Christ House, those of us whose lives had our own trials and tribulations were allowed to confront the dark and hurting places in our own lives and to share resurrections with people who, on the surface at least, were very different from us. It is impossible to worship with the poor and sick at Christ House and say you cannot deal with your struggles.
The journey to Christmas is the journey to hope and wholeness and, ultimately, peace.
“This is the blood of Jesus,” Leland whispers to me as he hands me the communion cup. In that moment the gift of Christmas is mine, for no distance separates the middle-aged, middle-class white man from a tiny Canadian border town and the formerly homeless black man with AIDS. We have each seen our brokenness, and through the gift of Christmas Leland and I share God’s love and healing.
Prayer: Lord, help us to reach out to those whose trials and victories teach us about the healing gift of Your love. Amen.
For additional information about our Advent devotions and their authors, click here.