Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Matthew 25. 34-36
At Christ Church, Charlotte back in the 80's, there was an outreach ministry called "Matthew 25." Not surprisingly it was focused on feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger and caring for the sick. It was highly successful and brought that gospel passage to life for me in a way that changed my life.
In this season of joy and festivity, the hungry are all around us, the strangers are searching for welcome and the sick are in need of care. To that end, a few churches in my little town here in the mountains got together last Wednesday night for a Service of Hope and Remembrance to enable all those who weren't feeling joyous or festive this season to come together and worship the Great Light that pierces all darkness. Sometimes called a Blue Christmas service or the Longest Night service, this practice is traditional in many communities as a way to honor and comfort those among us who are grieving, hungry, lost or scared.
I was deeply moved by this service, comforted as I grieve the loss of people in my life who have gone on to eternal life or to the world of estrangement and anger. But I was also touched to be in the presence of others who were grieving and who joined hands and hearts with me to claim the Light of Christ which came to pierce all our darkness and to restore us to wholeness. As we know, darkness NEVER has the last word, and this service reminded us all of that.
I pray that all of you might find joy in your hearts this Christmas in a new and different way, that what makes you hungry or scared or lost might be pierced by the Light and that on Christmas morning that Light will be born in your hearts, again for the first time.