This week as part of my exercise regimen, I walked the Apple Blossom Mall during the morning hours. As I walked I kept asking of God where was his presence among all these shoppers scurrying from store to store seeking to buy the perfect present, or maybe a little indulgence for themselves. I also asked what were they seeking here among all these goods and products. And I thought about the magi of Matthew 2:1-12, who traveled from so far to seek a child who is to be king, not just of Judah, but of the world. This led me to think of a song I discovered last year, “Where is the Line to see Jesus” performed by Lara Landon. Santa was there in the mall, but there was no line to see Jesus. And I do not know if there is a line at the Churches of Winchester to see Jesus. And is anyone buying a gift for the baby Jesus?
I also thought of the unexpected visitor to my home the other day. A young man who is a neighbor to Greenwood UMC. He put in my hand as I looked at him with disbelief and a swelling of emotion a check. Then he told me the story. He had performed at a Ruritan event, and they wanted to give him an honorarium for his time. He asked the check writer to make the check out in my name, so that I might give the money to one of the missions supported by Greenwood. He offered a gift for Jesus.
Then there was the man who came to me just before a service. He said he and his extended family this year decided not to give each other gifts and play “Thieves Christmas.” Instead, they wanted to help a family with needs and gifts at Christmas, so would I be able to find a family in the community that were struggling to make ends meet financially. I told that story to a few other people, and before I knew it, five local families were adopted this year by members of Greenwood and myself. A gift for Jesus.
A few days ago, I received a call from a member of Montague Avenue. Her and her husband had decided this year that they were not going to spend money on gifts for each other. Instead, they wanted to provide something for an elderly couple or person in need. She offered a gift for Jesus.
Jesus, as recorded in Matthew, tells a story of a king that is separating out the sheep and the goats. The sheep are to his right, and the goats to his left. He says:
Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:34-40 NRSV)
Jesus makes it clear where we might find the line to him. It is not in the shopping malls, or even in a church building. It is not at a family Christmas gathering, or in lavish Christmas parties. The line leads right to the least of those who are members of the King’s family.