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Stranger Christmas

December 3, 2008

It was very dark outside the local homeless shelter as I pulled in to the parking lot. There was a shadowy figure of a man outside the front door. My son and I got out and walked to the door, which he opened and welcomed us in. Once inside, another guest of the shelter motioned for us to go, in front of him, in line for supper and said, “The line is right here,” he said.
“Oh no, thank you.” I said. “I’m not going to eat, I just need to see the manager.” And the gentleman directed me to the back of the facility where there was an office.

I walked through the day room which was filled with folding tables and chairs and people of all ages (and certainly backgrounds). Then I noticed the young ones … in particular a little boy about 3 years old of Hispanic descent eating green beans and appearing wide-eyed by all that was going on around him.

“Oh my,” I thought to myself. “I wonder if he has trouble sleeping at night.” I guess this is an issue with me because I know how insecure I was as a child … I know how insecure and afraid my own children have been on occasion when “life feels unstable.” But here this poor child sits amidst “strangers” … he sleeps with strangers, eats with strangers, possibly even talks and plays with strangers. Of course, his mom and/or dad is there with him (and my understanding is that he has four siblings). But can you imagine what it must be like to lie down at night … not in a home … but a shelter. Can that be secure at all?  Can that be peaceful?

I don’t know what I was expecting … when I drove up … but I was met by folks who looked me right in the eye, nodded their heads in greeting, some even said, “How are you tonight?” — There may have been some shame and defeat and rejection brewing in their heart … but that was not the obvious, most prevalent message I got from just looking into their eyes.

What I saw from them was clearly, “we’re all in this together.”

The first thought in my mind was, “Oh, they think I’m homeless too.”

And God quickly reminded me, “But for my GRACE … YES.”
How shameful of me to be so arrogant! How pious to think I’m ministering to them. It is never that way! It is never ever that way!!! As always, I was ministered to. How do I become so proud?

You know the verse in the Bible when Jesus said, “whatsoever you did to the least of these … you did unto Me?” He’s right! That’s exactly the message conveyed in my visit with these strangers.
Ironically, God showed me in no uncertain terms … these folks are NOT strangers. These folks are family. They are me … and mine … no different — wayfarers searching for and trying to carve out some kind of life and meaning to it. I looked into the eyes the man who offered me his place in line … and I do believe I saw Jesus!!!

And as I passed by the little boy with a big spoonful of beans in his mouth … he looked at me. And there was Jesus. Waiting for the opportunity to speak with the manager, a “too slender” woman was going through some personal hygiene items in the hallway. She stood up, looked me in the eyes, and said, “How are you tonight.” I thought … not me, but how are you? And then I realized, she too much be Jesus.

From the hallway outside the manager’s office, I looked back into the day room and more and more folks were sitting around with plates on their laps or in their hands … eating the hot meal supplied by some benevolent group of people. It was crowded … about 30 or so milling about the room. There was not a lot of conversation going on … but some.

And I wondered, these folks are all “strangers” to each other — and Christmas is just around the corner. Could anything be more strange than spending the holiday with people you don’t even know?
But again, I was reminded … “They knew you when you walked in the door. Maybe you should think critically about what makes  a STRANGER?”

Oh Lord … I think that may sting a little.
What arrogance! What high-mindedness … of me! And then, there’s that song I’ve sung, Orphans of God …  (God reminded me again…)

Who here among us has not been broken, who here among us is without guilt or pain;
So oft abandoned by our transgressions …
If such a thing as GRACE exists, then Grace was made for lives like this.
There are NO STRANGERS … there are NO OUTCASTS …
There are no orphans of God.
So many fallen, but HALLELUJAH …
There are NO ORPHANS of God!
Come ye unwanted, and find affection
Come all ye weary … come and lay down your head.
Come ye unworthy … YOU ARE MY BROTHER —
If such a thing as GRACE EXISTS, then Grace was made for lives like this!

I feel quite “ashamed” at the loftiness of my own thinking toward my own personal circumstances. I know for a fact that it would be only by my own choice that I’d spend the holidays alone or with people I do not know or have relationship with. But for these folks … there may have been a choice that went awry in the past … but for these present days, a “STRANGER CHRISTMAS” is what’s in store for them …

I sure hope they see Jesus too!

Holy Spirit reveal to me … to us … how I (we) can minister and be ministered to … so there are NO ORPHANS of God … and NO STRANGER Christmas.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Kaye Zerk permalink
    December 8, 2008 6:48 am

    This brought tears to my eyes. We are so blessed, but how many do we bless?

  2. December 15, 2008 11:41 pm


    Just stopped by to say hi! I love the new look and the snow flakes….there goes one….there goes another!

    Lord bless,

    Your friend and co-laborer in Christ,

    Jim Richardson

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