Friday, December 24, 2010

My Christmas List

I have been reflecting a lot this week about Christmas in years past. I recall the year I finally got a Cabbage Patch Kid. Mine did not come in the box like everyone else for mine was carefully created in the home of a creative craftswoman, but I loved it just the same. I also remember the time when my sister and I came home from school to find water beds in our rooms, an early gift for Christmas. There was another year when we found a small bowling ally in the family room, waiting for us under the tree. Many of these gifts were the result of conversations with Mom and Dad or our making lists for Santa and hanging them on the refrigerator for all shoppers to see. Each year, it seemed as though we were granted many of our desires. We made a list of what we wanted, and many of these items magically appeared under our tree on Christmas morning with Santa tracks around the house in the snow.

I'm making a similar list for Christmas this year. While the list is not pegged to the refrigerator in our home, I suspect there is one who hears the cry of my heart, one who also longs to see some of these things come to fruition.

All I want for Christmas is...

Time with my family. It has been a rough week this week with my mom being in the hospital since Sunday morning. We have had several scares with her health and have been on our knees through much of the week, asking God to bring her healing. It appears she'll be home tomorrow for Christmas. I am grateful. As we get older, the preciousness of family seems to grow more intense. I am so incredibly thankful for family and yearn for more time to create priceless memories together.

Time for friends. As we have been praying this week, I have continuously been reminded of others who are praying with us. I am convinced that I have some of the most amazing friends in the world. I am so thankful for the calls and texts and Facebook comments that have been received. I pray in the New Year that I can become an even better friend - that I can remember each birthday or anniversary, that I'll be led to write a note for no reason other than to express thanksgiving for the gift of someones presence in my life, that I'll make more calls just to say 'hello' and that we'll make more time to be with people whose lives mean so much for us.

Craig and I have some control over the above two wishes. I need a lot of help with the remaining ones.

An end to homelessness. I'm tired of seeing people wrapped up in gray blankets distributed by the city, snuggled on top of cardboard boxes even when the temperature is below freezing. I don't understand why so many people are homeless in our city and in our nation. The more I get to know some of these individuals personally, the more confused I grow. How is it that more space can be made until all people have a place to call home? What role can our church and churches around the nation play in making this wish a reality?

An end to violence. I live in a city where violence erupts regularly. I do not understand why kids are carrying guns. I have no idea why anyone feels a need to own a military style defense weapon. Why are kids killing kids? Why does an argument become so fierce that someone feels a need to end another person's life? What is worth so much that someone will kill another person in order to get it? I long for the day when war will be no more because weapons will be beat into plowshares - into tools that are used for the building of community instead of the tearing down of community.

A denomination that truly embodies Open Hearts, Open Minds and Open Doors. I'm grateful to be a United Methodist. The United Methodist Church is the only church I have ever known other than a few Sunday nights spent in praise at the local Assembly of God Church. I love our focus on grace and the ways in which these beliefs are made manifest by the ways in which we go out of our way to abundantly open all people to the table of the Lord whenever the sacrament is administered. I am so thankful for our emphasis on practical divinity - on our believing not only with our minds but with our hands and our feet by our putting our faith into practice. I love our church. Yet, I long for a church that practices what it preaches. I long for a church that truly is abundantly open to all people. I long for a church with people who realize constantly that there go any of us but by the grace of God. I'm tired of my denomination putting one group of people aside, pulling out one aspect of who a person is and allowing that aspect to hold them down. I think about what Peter Storey recently told me about something Desmond Tutu used to say in South Africa, "I'd love to be reconciled with you but it is hard to shake your hand when your foot is on my neck." Our church continues to place our feet on the necks of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. We continue to say that all are welcome, that all people are of our sacred worth, and then we put our foot on the neck of a gay brother when we say that their life is incompatible with Christian teaching and that they cannot experience two of the most amazing gifts I have ever received - the gift of marriage and the gift of being a pastor. I want a more inclusive United Methodist Church. I want a transformed United Methodist Church.

More people who will come to know the incredible gift of Mount Vernon Place. Not a Sunday goes by when someone does not stop and say to me, "I love the authenticity of this place." As I write to each first-time visitor, we are young and old, lifelong churchgoers and people new to the church, individuals filled with faith and people struggling to believe, housed and unhoused, liberal and conservative, gay and straight, Methodists and Catholics, and countless things in between. What unites us is a sincere desire to figure out what it means to be faithful in our context of downtown Washington I have honestly never experienced a congregation like the one I am privileged to serve. I watch as individuals in my church family open their doors and their hearts and now even their homes to people in need whether that need is the gift of someone to listen, a place to shower and sometimes a place to stay at night. I watch as people are really wrestling with the gospel and the implications of what it means to follow Jesus. I watch as our community of faith is growing deeper and wider. There is something happening in this church, and I am so excited to see what the future holds for us. I pray that people who have been hurt by the church or told they are not welcome at the church will find their way to us. I pray that people who have only seen a hypocritical side to the church will be led to us. I pray that people who want nothing to do with the church will give us a second chance.

An End to Hunger. The local newspaper has educated me this year on how many children in our city are relying upon the public school system to feed them three meals a day. I wonder what these children are doing during the Christmas break - who is feeding their stomachs. I also wonder why I am not moved to do more each time I fill my grocery cart at the local Safeway, buying some things that will not even get eaten but rot in the refrigerator and then be placed in the trash. I long for a world where no one is dying of starvation, where no child is having a hard time focusing at school because their stomach is empty, where all people are fed.

My list could continue. There many other things I would love to have. And yet, as I write this list, I realize how much we have been given.

Thank you, God, for every gift you have so generously given to us. Thank you for a warm home and plenty of food, amazing friends and beautiful family members, prophetic colleagues and a remarkable church. Thank you for my health and for arms and legs that provide mobility. Help me, God, to know what part I can play in making my wishes a reality.

Merry Christmas.

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