"Hey man, what are you going to do today?"My heart sank. The ROOTS shelter provides beds for homeless young adults (age 18 to 25), but they only have room for 25 guests. When more than 25 people need a place to stay, the shelter has to have a lottery to decide who gets to come in. Being stuck on the street for the night is referred to as "lottoed."
"I don't know, same old. There's an open mic I want to go to, but I'm going to wait until I get lottoed."
"Why don't you just go tonight?"
"Nah, I'll just wait to get lottoed sometime this week."
Because I volunteer in the morning, I don't usually have to think about the young people who are turned away from the shelter. I just see the ones who are there at breakfast. But it has been really cold in Seattle this week (I can see snow on the ground from where I am sitting at my computer right now) and there just isn't enough room for all of the people who need a warm bed.
For most of the day after I heard this conversation, I was very sad. Then I got mad. This Christmas season, there seems to be an air of desperation. The economy is in bad shape, and it seems like everywhere I go, there are messages about how we need to buy more stuff to save it.
I'm not buying it. I am making most of my presents this Christmas and contributing to Heifer International or other charities for the rest. I do not want to be a part of a culture that would let children sleep in the snow in exchange for cheap iPods. And if the economy depends on me spending more than I can afford to pay back, that's not an economy that I want to save.
And yet, I believe the Christmas story still has incredible power and relevance. A message that has come up several times over the past months at University Friends Meeting is what it means to be held in the Light. Friends agree that this is not really the gentle, benign platitude that we sometimes think it is. The Light of God can be a stark and disturbing place, showing who we really are and not allowing us to hide any of our flaws.
I was thinking about this yesterday at meeting, and the following verses came to me:
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid." (Luke 2:9-10).Being surrounded by the glory of God can be a terrifying prospect. But my prayer for all of us this Christmas season is that we will stand in the glory of God and we will not be afraid.