Monday, January 4, 2010

Paying attention to shepherds...and the homeless

This post is a bit late, but still manages to capture some important values of our congregation. So enjoy a late Christmas present on me. Tim
Shepherds, why this jubilee? Why these songs of happy cheer?
Come, adore on bended knee, Christ, the Lord, the newborn king.
Gloria in excelsis Deo. Gloria in excelsis Deo.
Arthur Cole...Laura Scales...James Davis...William Dooley...Leonard Sinkler...
One by one, the names were read. At the calling of the names, a bell tolled, and a candle was lighted.

...Penny Lane...Tammy Blankenship...Robyn Hancock...Paul Wade...Bernard Dillard...
The names were not familiar to us. Had we seen a photograph, probably no one in attendance would have recognized a face, except possibly a face we had once avoided, eye contact we did not wish to make.

...Oscar Cheatwood...Eric White...Alfred Brown...Sydney Liggins...John Harvey...
The names were read at the Homeless Persons Memorial Service, held Friday, December 18. About 50 persons—not nearly enough—gathered to recognize the life and dignity of 26 of our neighbors who died during the past year. These men and women had chosen to make Roanoke their home, even though they had no place of their own to call home—at least, not in the sense that you and I do.

...Calvin Stump...Paul Switzer...Dana Stith...Susan Robertson...Wayne Heath...
Remember these 26 names the next time you sing the Christmas hymn, Angels, we have heard on high. Think of these 26 homeless men and women, and try to imagine their stories, and their families. Why? Because of the shepherds in the Christmas story.

You see, shepherds lived on the fringe of Jesus’ society, just as the homeless live on the fringe of our society. Most would not want to be around shepherds; the coarseness of their living made them offensive to polite society. In Jesus’ day, shepherds’ character was so suspect that they were not allowed to testify in court. They lived on the fringe. Out of sight, out of mind.

And yet on the most holy night of Jesus’ birth, shepherds were the first ones to get the news that a Savior had been born. Not the dignitaries, not the noble men and women. Shepherds, out in the fields, out on the fringe of society. They got the news of the Savior’s birth, and they went to Bethlehem to see. They may have been out of our sight and mind, but they were not out of God’s sight and mind.

God saw fit to bring these fringe-living shepherds right in to see His Son. We should think about that this Christmas, and remember the names of 26 homeless men and women who called Roanoke their home, who died in 2009. We should think about that, and remember many other homeless men and women who continue to call Roanoke home. If God can welcome in those on the fringes of society, so should we.

...Bryce Allison...Alonzo Hodge...Alma Sawyer...David Helms...Lucille Woolfolk...Pete Betuea.

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