I met Jesus on Cabot Street. It was Christmas Eve and I saw him nodding off sitting by the dumpster of the church I serve. He had been drinking and was missing one shoe. I asked if I could help and he said he needed a cup of hot coffee and a muffin.
So, Jesus and I walked to a local coffee shop and ordered. I learned that he likes a lot of sugar in his coffee and a lot of milk. He said that he likes lots of sugar ‘because my ex-wife says it makes me sweeter’.
Jesus has a sense of humor and a tenacity for living that he needs as he has nowhere to call home. I asked where he would spend Christmas and he said: ‘I have a camp hidden away where authorities won’t roust me. I know a church that is serving a free meal and I will go there on Christmas day’.
After his coffee and muffin he thanked me for ‘my kindness’, and we said good-bye. In the Bible, in Matthew 25:40 Jesus says to his followers: “Whatever you do unto the most vulnerable of my sisters and brothers you do unto me.”
A great mystery of our Christian faith is that God’s own child so identifies with the poorest and most vulnerable of us, that he refers to us as ‘my sisters and brothers’. Jesus so identifies with us in our vulnerability that today when I met the man leaning against the dumpster, missing one shoe, I knew that I was looking into the very face of Christ.
Some might call this a scandal and I agree. Jesus’ life and words were scandalous then and scandalous today.
According to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty there is a movement across our country for cities to criminalize being homeless. Some cities make it illegal to feed the poor on public property such as parks. A church I know in Oregon is at odds with their city because they allow homeless neighbors to camp on their property. Here in the city I live the city council with support from the mayor recently made camping or storing of possessions on public property a crime. Of such legal actions, Jesus asks this question: ‘Where do I sleep when I have nowhere to go?’
On this eve of Christmas I choose to live according to the wisdom of Jesus who tells us that when we visit someone in prison we are visiting him and when we advocate for the homeless we are advocating for him and when we buy a cup of coffee with extra sugar we are buying that cup of coffee for him.
It remains a scandal that Jesus, God’s own child was born homeless. He was wrapped in rags and placed in a manger, a feeding trough for animals. It stretches our comfort zone and our sense of propriety that Jesus identifies so deeply with the poorest of the poor.
But as we live into this scandal we are reminded that there is a place for us too, in God’s heart. Merry Christmas.