Scripture: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has chosen me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed and announce that the time has come when the Lord will save his people. (Luke 4:18-19)
Meditation: One of my favorite Christmas songs is by Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn. It is far from a traditional Christmas song, but, as you can see in the verses below, it reminds us of the incredible gift of Jesus’ birth and life on earth.
Like a stone on the surface of a still river
driving the ripples on forever,
Redemption rips through the surface of time
in the cry of a tiny babe.
There are others who know about this miracle birth.
The humblest of people catch a glimpse of their worth.
For it isn’t to the palace that the Christ child comes,
but to shepherds and street people, hookers, and bums.
And the message is clear if you’ve got ears to hear,
that forgiveness is given for your guilt and fear.
It’s a Christmas gift you don’t have to buy.
There’s a future shining in a baby’s eyes.
Sadly, today on our city streets there are scores of people who have not caught that glimpse of their worth. They struggle each day to find any meaning in life, often making it hard for us to reach out to them. Ma Curtis was like that. She was a homeless woman for whom you had to work very hard to find sympathy. She was dirty, crude and almost always drunk. She had been through every social service program in the city of Portland and was now mostly “persona non grata” at every one of them.
After 30 years of drinking and riding the trains, no one could see a future for Ma, except a sad and miserable death on the streets…no one, that is, but Michael and the staff at Baloney Joe’s shelter. Somewhere in this coarse and disheveled alcoholic they saw the image of God. For years Michael invited Ma into his shelter, kicked her out when she broke the rules, and invited her back, saying, “Ma, you are always welcome here when you want to work on your problems. We care about you.”
Not even Ma knows why one day, when she was nearly 60 years old, she woke up and made an incredible change in her life. She says she remembers only that in her early morning daze she said to herself, “What am I doing? There are people who care about me and I am acting like this. What is wrong with me? I’ve got to change.” Then she literally crawled to a place where she could detox from decades of alcohol abuse, and she never drank another drop.
For the next six years until her death, if you met Ma Curtis, you never forgot her. She was, as they say, “a piece of work.” She had an infectious but crusty laugh, the product of those decades of drinking and smoking. And she could regale you for hours with stories about riding the rails and her colorful past. But more importantly she traveled across this land telling everyone she saw never to give up hope on anyone. She would say, “No one deserves to be homeless.” She became one of this nation’s most eloquent speakers on homelessness. She challenged everyone she saw not to forget that every sleeping form on our city streets is made in the image of God. To meet Ma was to know that, and to know she had “caught a glimpse of her worth” and found hope in a hopeless life.
Prayer: Lord, help us to see Your image in our lives and grant us the patience and wisdom to see Your image in all who journey with us. Amen.
For additional information about our Advent devotions and their authors, click here.
Click here to listen to Bruce Cockburn’s “The Cry of A Tiny Babe”