Exhausted. Physically worn out.
In a minute, I’ll turn off the coffee pot and the lights. As I check the door though, I see the lights of the candles in the windows next door and my mind wanders.
Earlier on this long Eve of Christmas day, we sat in a dimly lit church auditorium. It’s not a beautiful sanctuary, just an old Quonset hut gymnasium finished out to seat a couple hundred people, but it’s warm.
Comfortably we sat, and then stood to sing as the familiar carols began.
It was no accident that he picked our building to wander into. That homeless man could not have known who would be there; he could not have predicted his reception. But in he walked.
There are no accidents.
We stood and sang. He trudged right up the middle aisle. You know, usually folks in his condition take a seat near the back, awaiting the chance to ask for help quietly. This fellow? Right up front.
No. This was no accident.
The man set his plastic Walmart sack on the communion table. In Remembrance of Me, the words cut into the wood declare to the onlookers. Somehow, I think that’s no accident either.
There are not many items in our church building that we would call sacred. It’s just not how we worship. Altars, fonts, icons–those are not really part of our experience. We believe that true worship is from our hearts, disregarding the physical trappings, almost to a fault. The Communion table though–that’s the Lord’s table. If not sacred, it is at least worthy of respect.
Dirty Walmart bags don’t scream out respect.
Sinking to his knees, the unhappy fellow bent himself down to the bare concrete floor and began to speak quietly. I couldn’t hear the words and I still don’t know what he prayed, but soon, others would kneel beside him and pray as well. They were still ministering to him as the rest of us left, nearly forty-five minutes later.
A young friend has already written of the event earlier, giving a profound illumination to the incident and its connection to that first Christmas and the arrival of another Stranger. I could add nothing more to that conversation. Nothing at all.
Still, I need to say the words.
It was no accident that the man set his dirty Walmart bag on our Communion table.
I wonder. How many of us who were there left unchanged tonight?
I’ve written on numerous occasions of homeless folks and our responsibility to them. Their stories always pull at my heart, and I’ve attempted to communicate that same sense to you in my writing.
Tonight though, on the eve of our observance of the birth of Christ, a dirty man set his dirty sack right down in the middle of my worship.
Right down in the middle of it.
But, as I stare over at the candles in the house’s windows, I begin to understand.
You see, it was no accident that the Baby was born to an unmarried young lady and laid in a feeding trough. It was no accident that His companions throughout His life on earth were outcasts, and drunks, and the poor.
It was no accident that this Holy, perfect God-man was hung on a cursed, profane tree.
His intent was to show us that what we define as profane is what He calls sacred. For all of His time here, He made clear as well, that what the religious folk of that day called sacred was actually profane.
The Baby in the barn calls us to care about the sacred instead of focusing on the profane.
He calls us to speak grace instead of declaring law. He calls us to give mercy instead of dispensing justice.
He calls us to let the dirty Walmart bag sit atop the Lord’s Table.
In some ways, the bag is more sacred anyway. It is if it allows a seeker to find once more the Baby who came to be Savior.
The Savior came to offer grace. More than that, He came to change who we are.
I know. He’s still changing me.
And that’s no accident either.
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”
(Isaiah 9:2 ~ NIV)
“Anything that happens to you, good or bad, must pass through His fingers first. There are no accidents with God.”
(Tony Evans ~ American pastor/author)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2014. All Rights Reserved.