Grace and Peace to you.
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife,
for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
Today I helped distribute gift bags to all the inmates at the state prison. Nine of us greeted them, and gave them the packages, and we all shook their hands. All 1380 of them. To greet 1380 people, to encounter such a wave of humanity, eye to eye, hand to hand, hit me deeply. They were in all states of age, race, health, stature and personality. Some were meek, some imposing; some fit and some in shambles, some appreciative and some aloof. But they are all neglected, condemned, and treated as less than human. One guy said, “This is the only touch of normalcy all year.” It took us a couple of hours, but for each of them it lasted less than twenty seconds.
As they filed by one by one and I greeted them and shook their hands I wished I could pack so much more blessing and hope and dignity and the promise that God is with them than was possible in one quick, “God bless you.” (How powerful a single moment can be!) I prayed that somehow they might even unconsciously behold some grace, experience some love. It was like serving communion: one after another of God’s beloved people coming by, each with their own story, needs, wounds, sins and gifts, each getting a little symbolic gift in a brief holy moment, a gift of pure love no matter their past. You hope they get it.
Joseph was asked to trust that Mary’s child was of God. We too are asked to trust that God is present and at work in everyone we meet. I know a few of these guys have done terrible things. But God is still in them. They still have something holy going on in them. Everyone has a “holy child” inside. Everyone. Some of us are pretty rough mangers. But the child is holy. Few know it. But all are longing to know. Every holy child is longing to be loved.
Advent is a time to practice loving every little bit that we can, trusting the holy that we can’t yet see, loving the holy child in each beautiful, dear, precious, screwed-up person, every one a beloved child of God, so far from home.
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