Posted on Wed, Dec 30, 2015
December 25, 2015
Gospel: Luke 2:8-20
The Shepherds and the Angels
8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
14 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!’
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
When Ernest told me that he and Don had a special new song for our Christmas Day worship called, “Grateful,” the title caught my attention and I was very curious to read the lyrics of the song. All it took was the first line, as I read it in my office, tears began to well up in my eyes. I spend much of my time out and about stopping to talk to the people I recognize from our Foodbank living out in the streets, or at least trying to see the places where the hungry and houseless live. For years, we saw a few tents up here and there, and I began to learn the names of a few of the people in and around the Ala Wai Canal, A’ala Park and so forth, giving them any recycled cans and bottles I may have had. In the beginning I knew a few of the people digging through the garbage by name, and I was able to invite them to ANC to get some food, take a shower and maybe get some of the help they needed. It was especially good when several families and individuals accepted my invitation and showed up at the ANC Thanksgiving Feast. It was the only time I saw some of them smile and not have an expression of fear on their face. The hospitality of free food, open prayer, music and no judgment was a very short, but it was a short happy time for them. It broke my heart when those events were over and they had to return to their life of survival. Over the years I have brought countless bags of food down to people living in and around boats, under bridges and in the parks. The hardest times are when they would call out my name and ask for some food because they had none at the time. They were hungry then, their stomachs hurt then, shelter and a place to cook were nominal at best, and I knew it would take me some time to get them some food… food and shelter I take for granted every single day.
This way of life continues to this day, but in a very short 5 to 7 years, the numbers of hungry people have grown so much, I don’t recognize people by name anymore… Even I have become just one of many trying to stem the rising tide of the houseless and hungry, and the number of people calling me has actually diminished. But what strikes me is the number of homeless and hungry children has grown so steadily I am afraid for our future. At least we, as a church, have responded in a positive way, rather than giving up and folding up. We keep the faith, and continue to provide not just food, laundry facilities and showers, we provide hope and protect dignity. I find it one of the greatest honors I have received as a citizen of our community is to serve on the board of the Hawaii Foodbank. I am not able to contribute much, only perspective and reality to some amazing and talented people.
But when I hear Ernest sing so beautifully, “I’ve got a roof over my heard, I’ve got a warm place to sleep;” the images in my mind go immediately to the people first living under Nimitz highway, living in the brush near Keehi Lagoon Park and along the canal and the hundreds living in the Keawe forest next to the boat harbor in Waianae.
The shepherds in Jesus’ day were used to living outside in the cold. They lived in conditions much, much, colder than here in Hawaii, but the images of the shepherds I saw herding their sheep through the streets in Bethlehem the last time I was there in 2008, look just like many of the truly homeless we see here in Honolulu.
For me, when I see another homeless family living on our streets, the image of the Holy Family looking for a safe and warm place to have their baby come to my mind. When I see underpaid people cutting our lawns, or desperate people digging through trash bins looking for cans and bottles to recycle, I think about the shepherds that the angels first appeared to proclaim the Good News that “Unto All People a Savior has been Born!” Just yesterday afternoon, there was one of our neighborhood houseless trying to find anything he could in our dumpster.
I wonder why God chose the humble Mary, and cold dirty yet faithful shepherds to first proclaim the Good News of Jesus birth to… maybe it is because they would listen.
On the morning of Christmas Eve yesterday, the shops were filled with the bustle of people taking care of last minute shopping at Safeway and Costco, however, in front to ANC there was another crowd waiting for some food, maybe a T-shirt, or some time to wash their clothes, but the atmosphere was filled with people wishing each other “Merry Christmas” and there were plenty of hugs and kisses to go around.
As a Christian, blessed with the gift of our Savior Jesus Christ, we are called to believe that with the birth of Jesus, our hope, forgiveness, grace, hope and joy has also been born. Our belief comes alive when we begin to walk with a new spirit with our Savior as a disciple in complete relationship with Jesus’ commands and hope.
It doesn't matter whether we are rich or poor, Christmas time is a time we are blessed with the Good News that our Savior has come into our world to lighten our darkness so that we can live in a new hope of love and joy that is a blessing for all humankind. This promise becomes a means for us to see all people as our brothers and sisters with whom God also loves and has bestowed on them the title, Children of God. Therefore, the gift of Christmas, is truly a gift proclaiming that with the Birth of Jesus, our gift of grace and new hope becomes our very own gift, making us a new gift to the entire world, starting with our own forgiveness, and branching out to all our friends, family and even the stranger living in our midst.
You are a Gift! You are a Blessing! Unwrap your heart and present in God’s world. Amen.
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