Christmas musings and blessings

joes-crossThis is my last Christmas at St. Thomas – in ten days I shall be retired.  I really cannot fathom what it will be like no longer to be part of this parish and its wonderful people.  This Christmas brought one of the greatest gifts possible.  Let me back up and give some background.

It was over five years ago that we started a ministry to the needy and hungry of our community.  It is now a partnership with three other churches – Calvary, Christ the Rock and St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic.  We usually feed over one hundred twenty people three days a week.  My colleague Ed and I have spent time sitting, listening and getting to know these dear folk.  They are the vulnerable and rejected in our community.  They have learned not to trust.  They live on the edge of our society whose margins make them all but invisible.  Some have been in institutions, some live in their automobiles, some move from shelter to shelter.  The institutional Church has not been a friend to many.  This last year we have seen a few begin to trust and even come to worship on a Sunday.  Three have become members and one came to me this last week.

He said that the time had come to become a Christian.  He had never believed until recently.  He had never really encountered God except recently in the community that served at “Double Portion.”  We had talked often and he had developed relationships with a couple of other men.  There was trust, a desire to “have what they have.”  Could he pray to receive Jesus as savior and Lord?  We met privately in the chapel after everyone had gone home to prepare for Christmas.  We used the simple words of the prayer book:

  • Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?
  • Answer – I renounce them.
  • Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
  • Answer – I renounce them.
  • Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?
    Answer – I renounce them.
  • Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior?
    Answer – I do.
  • Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love?
    Answer – I do.
  • Do you promise to follow and obey him as your Lord?
    Answer – I do.

He was baptized with tears in his eyes.  He came to Communion at the 4:00 pm family service.  One of our families embraced him as soon as he arrived and he was to join them in the front pew, no objections entertained!  What a joy as I was able to share with him the body and blood of the Lord and now his Lord.  Dale S. and Fr. Ed S. are now his godfathers – they will do a great job!

What a gift!  Phillips Brooks in his hymn “O Little Town of Bethlehem” includes the words concerning Jesus “be born in us today.”  He is and for my dear brother he truly is this Christmas time.  What a wonderful gift.  This is what ministry is all about.

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