Each of us has had an opportunity to read, study and hear the word proclaimed on the familiar texts found in the Gospels about the shepherds, the wise men, Mary, Joseph and Jesus. Sometimes hearing the scripture read and the Word proclaimed in the company of those whose experiences are different from us makes the good news take on a whole new meaning.
I was recently invited to attend the annual Christmas celebration at La Estrella Resplandeciente (“The Shining Star”), a shared ministry of the Capital and Heritage districts. La Estrella strives to meet the needs of the Hispanic/Latino children who live in the Stanhope community who gather weekly in what was previously Stanhope UMC’s building.*
During each Christmas season, the children and their families gather to worship and enjoy a program by the children, followed by dinner. Andy Blakely, a Duke intern who is currently serving at La Estrella, offered this year’s sermon. His message was offered in both Spanish and English and hearing with the diverse congregation gathered brought familiar text to life in a fresh new way.
Andy reminded us that the shepherds were not considered important people. They were farmworkers and unfortunately, like today, they did not receive much honor for their profession. We were reminded that the birth of a King is usually not announced to farmworkers, it is announced to other kings in their palaces. But the Kingdom of God is different. The shepherds did not do anything special to deserve this. They were just working, living their lives, and the angel of the LORD came and told them the good news. The good news would be for ALL people, for the farmworkers the same as for kings. He also reminded us that the wise men were astrologers, which was strange because the use of astrology was prohibited to the people of God. Nevertheless, God used a brilliant star to give a sign to help them find the King of the universe. When Joseph and Mary were preparing a place for the baby, they had to leave and travel far while Mary was pregnant. Andy related to some in our midst who may have had to migrate while pregnant or with a pregnant wife. Maybe they had to migrate without understanding how this could be a part of God’s plan and sometimes, God’s plan seems confusing. We are to trust in him and remember that Immanuel means God with us.
I’ve gotta tell you that when you are in the pews with farmers and people who have migrated for reasons that most of us would not understand, the good news takes on a whole new and fresh meaning. I am grateful that God works through unexpected means and lowly people, because it gives me hope that God can work through someone like me (and you). I am thankful for the ways that God’s living word continues to take on new life through new experiences. Let us remain open to God’s revelation as we form relationships with and seek to understand the circumstances of others. If we only seek to experience Jesus from our comfy pews and couches we are likely to miss something! Let us remain alert and open!
Wishing you peace and joy,
*More about La Estrella:
Each Saturday, children are picked up in vans and transported to the church. They enjoy a time of fellowship, prayer, praise and worship songs and an interactive time of learning about people, stories and lessons from the Bible. The children also receive assistance with homework, ESL tutoring and enjoy outdoor activities such as soccer and kickball and indoor activities such as computer and board games and art projects. All of this is done to celebrate the gift of God’s diversity and creation in every person, by helping youth recognize their worth and place in the Kingdom of God while having fun in the process! Lunch is also provided by the generosity of churches in our districts. To learn more about how you can participate in this program or how you can volunteer to help in any way, please contact the Director of La Estrella: Rev. Erin Pearce 919-356-6898 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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