The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon [us],
because the LORD has anointed [us];
he has sent [us] to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners… Isaiah 61:1
Jesus came by for a visit on Wednesday night, and he brought some friends with him too, seven or eight hundred, actually. And it was wonderful.
You may recognize the verse above from Isaiah; Jesus quotes it as his own mission statement when he begins his ministry after his baptism, in Luke 4. It is, therefore, also our mission statement. Indeed, it belongs to all the baptized, who have put on Christ crucified and risen as our life’s garment.
Wednesday evening, December 10th, was the Annual North End Family Centre. Christmas Party, the third year we have hosted it. Although quite lively, to put it mildly, it was a great evening, full of the presence of Christ in all who came, and in all who hosted. Thank you to all from St. John’s who were out and helped in any way! You were the welcoming presence of Christ in this place for the Christ who came in from the cold that night, young and old, who stood outside, waiting to get in, mostly poor people who came for an evening they would not have had otherwise, mostly aboriginal, many of whom walked or rode the bus to get here.
(The LORD has anointed [us];)
to provide for those who mourn in [Winnipeg] —
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. Isaiah 61:3
All the work, all the hours, all the running up and down stairs, all the cleaning up of messes, all the extra light and heat, all the extra garbage, all of it, all was worthwhile to see the smiles in the faces of the children, the children who stood in line for up to an hour to receive one new toy, and a small package of candy. You would have thought they had received the world, they were so happy.
And even though we ran out of food, after the first four hundred received a modest ‘feast’ of Subway sandwich and chips and a pop, and again after the next two hundred and forty received one slice of pizza each, even then almost all the guests were polite and dignified and grateful for the evening. Old women with grandchildren, young mothers with several kids, young fathers, and kids, kids, and more kids, were all grateful and patient and, almost without exception, thanked all the hosts and wished us all a cheerful ‘Merry Christmas!’.
Yes, Jesus came by for a visit last Wednesday, and brought a bunch of friends! Thankfully, he also found many friends here to greet him.
As we complete our Advent journey, and move on and through Christmas itself, let’s remember Jesus’ mission statement, and ours as well. Let’s work always to keep Christ in Christmas! How? Well, think about these things, and maybe read Matthew 25 again: Feed the hungry (Winnipeg Harvest), give clean, safe water to th thirsty (Shoal Lake n.40 First Nation), welcome the stranger (NEFC Community Christmas Party!), provide clothing for those who need it (Charlie Brown Tree), take care of the sick (Pastoral Care Teams), visit those in prison (Anglican Chaplaincy). Obviously there are many other ways as well, many other opportunities for all his disciples to work with Jesus to bring in the Kingdom, a kingdom where all can share in God’s abundance, a kingdom where all can live in justice with peace for the whole creation.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus! Thanks be to God!