I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free! Psalm 119:32, NIV1984

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Sweeter Gift

In the misty, grey cold of Christmas morning, I held her filthy hands and looked her in the eyes.

"God has not forgotten you," I whispered.

Salty tears ran down her wind-chapped cheeks and her lips trembled across teeth that hadn't been brushed in . . . months?

"Could we sing Amazing Grace," she asked?

"Of course!" I smiled.

I knelt beside her, there on the frozen concrete, and we sang off-key . . .

Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost
But now am found
Was blind but now I see.
( - John Newton)

It was just a moment on Christmas morning a year ago.  

But it's the moment I remember most from last Christmas.

For years now, my parents, my husband and children, my brother and sister, their families, and I have spent Christmas morning on the streets of our city, handing out clean socks, warm blankets, hot biscuits, and paper cups of steaming coffee.  I struggle to remember the gifts we've opened and the meals we've eaten those Christmases past; but I remember the men, the women, the children we've visited on the streets . . .

...The two guys who asked my children what they had found under the tree that Christmas morning . . . the one who said he remembered getting a bike for Christmas when he was a boy . . . the way he smiled, his face tender with the memory.

...The man who pulled a wad of cash out of his pocket...showed my dad the last of the savings that he had pulled out of the bank before moving to the streets with his wife.

...The lady who told my children and their cousins about her grandchildren near their ages . . . and how she said, "I'll probably see you next year.  I'll be here."

...The four-year-old boy with his mom, bundled up in blankets but so, so cold . . . and how I cried all the way home, laid awake nights praying for him.

I don't know all the reasons they're living on the streets.  Job loss.  Broken homes.  Mental illness.  Broken dreams.

I don't know how to fix all the broken lives, broken hearts, broken hopes on those streets.

But I know this . . .

Jesus said, "For I was hungry . . ."

And I know this . . . sweeter than any package we could open is this gift of seeing the ones we too often look right past.

Can you imagine . . . to Him?

During this season of Advent, I want to slow down instead of scurrying past.

In the midst of the celebration, I want to take time to really see.

My friends, Dave and Jess, say it better than I could say it.  
(And they don't sing off-key!


But when the Son of Man comes in His glory,
and all the angels with Him,
then He will sit upon His glorious throne...
Then the King will say to those on His right,
"Come you who are blessed by my Father,
inherit the Kingdom prepared for you 
from the creation of the world.
For I was hungry, and you fed me.
I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink.
I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.
I was naked, and you gave me clothing.
I was sick, and you cared for me.
I was in prison, and you visited me."
Then these righteous ones will reply,
"Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you?
Or thirsty and give you something to drink?
Or a stranger and show you hospitality? 
Or naked and give you clothing?
When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?
And the King will say, "I tell you the truth,
when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,
you were doing it to me!"
Matthew 25:31, 34-46, NLT

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