Monday, December 22, 2014

The Night God Showed Up

I looked around the room. I'm seldom nervous when it comes to speaking, but this day I was just a little.  It wasn't because I was worried about "performance."  I just wanted to make sure I connected.  I wanted to be sure I related to a group of people I struggle to relate to sometimes.  I didn't want to just get up there and yak for the sake of yakking.  I wanted to speak words that brought life, and hope.  I thought I knew what I was going to say, but in a moment all of that changed.

On the way to the nursing home I noticed a road sign that said, "Dead End."  I thought to myself how ironic that sign was.  What a horrible declaration for those brought here, but the reality was sobering. This is the last stop for many of these elderly ones.  On the way home one of my boys asked me, "Dad, the ones that were here last time that aren't here anymore? Did they go home or did they die?"  The answer I had to give was a hefty dose of reality.  The residents here are brought to this place and often are left here and forgotten about.  I don't think any loving family member ever wants to make that decision to drop off a loved one at a place like this, but sometimes that decision has to be made.  And I'm sure that most have the intention of visiting regularly, but then life happens and many of these elderly people are left staring out the window waiting for those visitors who seldom come.
They seemed happy to have visitors on this day.  Some clapped to the Christmas songs, some sang along, and some had smiles on their faces.  But, when I stood up to speak, I saw tired, empty eyes looking back at me.

I remember years earlier visiting my grandmother in a place not much different than this.  I watched as my Mom would talk to her, comfort her, and kiss her on the cheek or forehead.  I usually stood paralyzed not knowing what to say or do.  I wanted to pray a prayer and have her walk out of there with me, but the reality is that never happened.  She never got better.  She just got older and weaker. I hated it.  I hated seeing her like that.  I hated the fact that I couldn't do anything to fix it.  So, I didn't go much.

Perhaps that's the same reason many never stop in to see those that have been put in homes like this.  It makes us uncomfortable.  What do we say? What do we do?  What if they don't know who I am? What if they smell? What if, what if, what if?????? So, we just don't go.  And there they sit staring out a window waiting for the visitors that never come.

As I stood there with all eyes on me, I was reminded of the reality of the Christmas story.  I was reminded of a God who made a promise to pay us a visit.  A God who had made a promise to show up.  He had sent out announcements centuries earlier announcing His arrival. Prophets such as Ezekiel and Isaiah were messengers He used to let people know He was coming.  Then to make sure nobody missed His arrival, He spoke through the prophet Daniel and gave us a pretty good idea of when He would show up.  Then, after much waiting, He showed up.  He came just like He said He would.  He wasn't one second late.  He showed up right on time, just like He promised.  He didn't forget about us.  He didn't leave us on our own.  No, this God, came to us. No, He wasn't wrapped up in nice shiny wrapping paper and placed under a tree like most Christmas presents.  He was wrapped in rags and placed in an animal feeding trough, right smack dab in the middle of a stinky, dirty stable.  He stepped out of the comforts of heaven and stepped into our broken world.  Like those residents in that home, we were incapable of moving one step toward Him.  We couldn't meet Him halfway, but that didn't stop Him from coming.  He made the decision to come to us.  So, past our mess, past our weakness, past our inabilities, past our disease, past our brokenness, past our filth, past our stink, He came.  He came just like He said He would.

He came to connect with us.  He came to have a relationship with us.  He came to reconcile us back to Him.  He came to make things right between us.  He didn't simply come to visit, He came to journey through life with us.  He came to love us without conditions. Then, He challenged us to love others in the way He loves us.  He challenged us be a reflection of Him to the world around us.  He instructed us to be His hands and feet.  To be His mouthpiece. To represent Him and His love to this broken world.

I pray I was His mouthpiece yesterday.  But I also pray I was His hands and feet.  I pray the hugs and handshakes were a reflection of Him.  I pray the visitation brought joy and a sense of hope.  I could really care less if any of them remember my name or what church I was with.  I hope and pray though that when our group left they were left with an idea of what it was like that night in the manger when God showed up.