They came in slowly at first, the ones we’ve been connecting with all year. Our friends facing addictions and trauma. The dear ones who are scrambling up the slope of healing from exploitation and years of abandonment, when hope slides away like rocks under their feet. The climb is steep and lonely and we’ve been in it together passing the ropes and sharing the load, hoping that we can do something.
They came and took a seat at the table and smiled as we played the Christmas music and pulled out the games. Our clients at the Lighthouse Resource Center are also our friends and they come from all backgrounds…young to old; from years on the street to newly jobless or newly hopeless. We invited them in, and there was still space for more.
So we went out and we found some who hadn’t heard about the party, or who didn’t think they could come. They were welcomed too. For some it was too much and they stepped in and then back out. Others didn’t come at all. But others did enter in. One came in a wheelchair, others holding the hands of friends, and another on crutches until the seats were full.
There was later and joy as the Christmas cumbia music echoed through the room, and the laughter and celebration echoed too because everyone belongs when Jesus is there. And Jesus was there because he is always there. Our hearts felt full as we shared lunch and gifts with everyone who had a seat at the table. We smiled at one of the women we’ve known for while who is blind and was chosen to participate in one of the games with the help of a friend. We smiled at the babies, and played with the kids as they “pinned the nose on Rudolph.” We remembered that Jesus rejoiced in throwing parties for those who can’t find a seat at any other table.
It was hard to hold back the tears as the smiles on the faces around us radiated the special thing that is connection, the thing that is the Gospel and the welcoming good news of Jesus Christ. Nothing compares to the invitation of the one who invites us all to come as we are, to sit down, to be a part of his community. And so we come in our poverty and blindness, our lameness and loneliness, our imperfection and our need. We come in our sin and shame and he is there pulling out a chair for every one of us. Maybe not all of us are so broken on the outside, but we are all of us broken and in need of an invitation and a place to belong, to be seen, and to be loved. What a privilege, a joy, a grace to be invited in ourselves and to invite others to join us.
“But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.” – Luke 14:13-14