Pastor Pat: The Gift of Our Presence
Visitations that transform us.
(Posted December 18, 2015)
Speaking of Visitations---
This is the time of year, between now and the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6, when I try to visit as many of our homebound members as I can who are not physically able to make it to church any more. The last couple of afternoons you’d have found me in the corridors of our local Senior Living facilities.
It never fails. I’ve come to visit a specific person during my trip. But as I make my way down a hall it is lined with residents in wheelchairs simply waiting for some bright moment. It is these souls that reach out to me to be recognized, to be greeted, even if only with a few words and a smile.
It occurred to me yesterday: why couldn’t we ALL make a plan to visit an elder or ailing someone this holiday season?
If there isn’t an elderly neighbor you could visit, why not check with your local nursing home to see who’s not likely to have a Christmas visitor? Many residents won’t have anyone visiting them for Christmas. Perhaps their families are far-flung. Perhaps they’re just not interested in carving a time in their Christmas season to visit someone whose memory isn’t so sharp, or who often cries out of loneliness, out of missing someone who used to make their Christmas, CHRISTMAS.
So… how about it? Of course, you may say that, “I’d feel awkward – I wouldn’t really know this person.” But then again, you’d be wrong. The moment you look into the face of someone alone for Christmas, you’ll be looking into the face of Jesus, and he would let you know that you’re showing love just by being in visitation. Jesus was at his most vulnerable in the beginning of life and at the last – as a baby totally dependent upon others to feed him, change him, protect him and most of all, love him. And again, on the cross, afflicted by pain and dying, reaching out for someone to walk the last mile with him. How much alike are Jesus and our elderly members in their need for our loving presence!
This Sunday we’ll be talking about a Visitation – the pregnant Mary visits her older cousin Elizabeth who is bearing the baby that will become John the Baptist. When Mary enters, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaps for joy. And in a kind of reverse Annunciation, Mary bursts into song, singing, “My soul magnifies the Holy One!”
As Rev. Dr. John Nelson says, “When Mary enters Elizabeth and Zechariah's house and greets her cousin, Elizabeth's child turns in her womb. Mary, for the first time in her story, is heard as Mary. She is recognized. Here is the truest annunciation, from another woman whose dream has come true and from the baby in her belly. No angel visitant, but others from society's margins perceive Mary for the prophet she is becoming. Now she can truly sing her Magnificat: "My soul magnifies the Holy One."
In this season of sales and secular “carols” that put less emphasis on “lullaby,” and more on “buy, buy buy,” how precious is the lesson we learn that the greatest gift we can give this Christmas is the gift of our presence, our visit, and the song of love that is the meaning of Christmas. Think about reaching out to the face of Jesus waiting for you in the nursing home. – Pastor Pat Kriss