By Jerry Wrenn
Welcome, Holy Child. Welcome, Holy Child. Hope that you don’t mind our manger. How I wish we would have known. — “Welcome to Our World” (Words and music by Chris Rice)
With Christmas comes winter. Many areas are experiencing extreme cold, rain and snow. Preparations were made to welcome Jesus, but let us be more inclusive and welcome others: the travelers, the strangers and the homeless. Surely, other travelers did not find lodging, but had to stay somewhere.
Mary and Joseph found shelter in a stable because there was no room for them in the inn. They could not have been the only ones coming for the census. Surely, other travelers did not find lodging, but had to stay somewhere. I suspect there were also local folks who did not have a permanent place to stay.
Is it not possible that some might have shared the stable with Mary, Joseph and Jesus huddled together in a dark corner?
A Beautiful Nativity Scene
Some years ago, my wife and I traveled to Mexico during the Christmas season. We stopped at a restaurant, and in the entry way was a beautiful Nativity scene, with many animals from around the world, and even some imaginary ones.
Since then, our Nativity scene has expanded to include more animals and people coming to see the new baby. This year, the Nativity scene will have other people in the stable, maybe people just struggling to get by.
I volunteer at a local food pantry, and not only do I check-in clients who are homeless, other volunteers are living in cars or in a secluded area of a park. These people would have welcomed the stable, and not worried about it not being the Hilton. They would have talked to Mary and Joseph, shared what they had, and been a small community for as long as needed.
The Real Ministry Opportunities
We put a great deal of emphasis on getting to Bethlehem, and the birth of Jesus, but it’s after the kings, shepherds and sightseers return home that the real opportunities for ministry begin. Treating everyone with simple dignity, kindness, and respect, goes a long way.
God Never Intended That There Be Haves & Havenots.
Every community has folks that are struggling. Advocate for others, for more shelters, more access to resources, places that serve hot meals, etc. Find a food pantry, volunteer there, or organize a peanut butter or can of tuna fish drive.
Even small children are able to participate in this ministry, and for them, it’s exciting. When the children get involved, and are excited, the adults get on board.
God never intended that there be haves and havenots. Together, we can help level the playing field, so that all can be fed and nourished, all can have a roof over their heads, earn a living wage, and receive an education. Share the dream — and the ministry.
Editor’s note: Jerry Wrenn grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area (East Bay). He has lived in Hayward for the past 30 years, with his wife, Joan. He has served as a youth worker at various levels, taught Sunday school for all ages, served as member or chair of Missions/Peace with Justice Committees. He is the co-chair of the United Methodist California-Nevada Conference’s Shasta Family Camp. Wrenn is retired, but volunteers and advocates at an ecumenical food pantry in Hayward. He is a member of Walnut Creek United Methodist Church.