The world is about to change. That is the promise of Christmas. The promise of the coming of the Messiah. The promise of God becoming human. Mary articulates this promise and expectation in her song of praise (Magnificat) in Luke 1:46-55.
Mary is often portrayed as humble and gentle, yet in her song of praise Mary boldly proclaims God’s coming disruption of the world. Through the child she is bearing, God is going bring down the powerful and lift up the weak; fill the hungry with good things and send the rich away empty. The proud will be scattered while mercy will be shown to the humble and humbled. The promise and expectation of this coming Christ child is not just about our individual salvation, but the fundamental changing of the world. Through this child, Immanuel, God with us, the world will be transformed to reflect God’s vision of justice, peace, love, and mercy. Through this child, we are invited to join God’s transformation of the world.
Joining the God’s work of transformation can happen in large and small ways. This past week we participated in sharing God’s grace, love, and mercy with those in our community in a few different ways.
On Monday, a group of us gathered in the Shetler Building to sort the toys delivered to the church for children. Partnering with FaithAction, we gathered presents for 100 children who would otherwise go without on Christmas. Like Santa’s elves, we sorted and stacked, checked the list over and over to make sure that every child was accounted for. Then using a sleigh in form of a rented moving van, we delivered the toys to FaithAction so that they could be picked up by the families. Through toys for children, we as First Presbyterian Church shared God’s grace, peace, and love with these families. In a time when these families may be experiencing much fear and anxiety like Mary and Joseph so many years before, we extended compassion and kindness. Through giving toys to children in these families, we joined God’s work of transforming the world.
On Thursday evening, Hot Dish & Hope had our annual Christmas party. With John, Anne, and Will providing music for the occasion, our guests received a hot meal along with the bags prepared and collected by the church. As I stood at the back door handing out gift cards and gift bags, the constant refrain from people was deep appreciation and gratitude for the generosity of our church. One man opened his bag right in front of me and shouted with joy when he discovered a new pair of gloves in the bag; he had just lost his gloves earlier in the day and had been clenching his fingers trying to keep them warm. Children opened the bags with great anticipation and their faces filled with joy as they discovered games and toys. Volunteers worked behind the scenes for weeks preparing for Thursday night, and when Camille Townsend put out a call for more help, our volunteers did what they have done for years: show up.
Thank you for your generosity and compassion in providing these meaningful gifts to the kids through FaithAction and our guests at Hot Dish & Hope! As we move from the anticipation of Advent to the celebration of Christmas, may Mary’s song of praise linger with us. May it shape us and guide us as we not only share gifts with family and friends this Christmas, but also to share God’s grace, love, justice, peace, and mercy with those in our community.