Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Spirit of Christmas, the Spirit of Christ

On Christmas Day we got up earlier than we have in a while.  That is what happens when you are spending Christmas with small children.  We had a fun time watching the kids with their new toys and listening to their squeals of delight in what Santa Claus brought them. 

We opened thoughtful gifts from one another.  That is what happens when you are spending Christmas with older children.  We laughed at one another and wept with gratitude.

Then thirteen of us took turns in two bathrooms, showering, brushing teeth, doing hair and makeup, getting dressed in our Sunday best.  By 10:00 a.m. 18 of us were at Gramercy Court Care Facility, where my dad is the pastor each week in a short worship service.  We took turns singing Christmas songs to the residents of that facility.  Some hardly looked up.  Others clapped and sang along.  We passed out Christmas gifts (flashlights as a reminder to follow the Light of the World, small pictures of Jesus, and packets of Hershey's kisses) and shook hands and visited and said "Merry Christmas" dozens of time.

After about 45 minutes we changed into pants and went to North C Street, where ministries from the Sacramento area have set up all kinds of services for the homeless.  There are women's shelters, a preschool, a place for men to get clean, kitchens, medical clinics.  The City of Sacramento doesn't like this area.  They are afraid that if they create an organized place, the homeless will congregate there.  On this day, Pastor Joe's ministry was working with Loaves and Fishes to give sleeping bags and ground mats to the homeless.  There were about 300 sleeping bags donated.  We sang again, shook more hands, wished more Merry Christmases.

Then we followed Mo, who showed us the way he is spending his money, the way he chooses to minister for Jesus.  We toured the facility where homeless women can sleep and leave their children in a safe place and earn their GED, all without leaving the facility.  These women are told they are worthy of God's love, they are good, they are talented, and they are "potant!"  When they graduate, they get to go into the closet filled with formal dresses and shoes and choose an outfit.  A volunteer comes in and does their hair and makeup, and then they go downtown for a formal graduation ceremony.  They have their picture taken and their story written and posted on the wall.  (There are 800 of them!)  Then they come back and start looking for work.  Of the 41 (41!) women who graduated this fall, 22 got jobs.  When they get an interview, they go into a different closet and choose a business suit and shoes to wear to their interview.  They get a ride to the interview, during which they are told they are capable and worthy.

We saw people who were clearly mentally ill, mentally challenged, and/or addicts.  We also saw people who were good and kind and happy and, incidentally, homeless.

Perhaps most impressive was Mo, who has been involved in this "ministry" for nearly 20 years.  He, too, has seen many mentally ill people, many addicts.  He chooses, however, to focus on the people who clearly need the touch of the Master's hand--those who need to be told and shown that they are worth good efforts; those who need a little help in order to get on their feet.  He chooses to see in each face the face of one of Heavenly Father's children.  He chooses not to be jaded by those who are criminals.  He sees, instead, someone who might be brought into the fold of God.

Mo sees the truth.  I have been touched and changed.

Merry, merry CHRISTmas.