Originally published Dec. 28, 2016.
It won’t be long now until most of us have put the ornaments and lights away, taken the Shop-Vac to the needles, forced the wrapping paper and the boxes into either the trash or recycling and closed off Christmas for another year.
We are all done decking the halls and wassailing for another 11 months. There are no more carols at the mall. Red-nosed reindeer have gone into hibernation. And the department stores will soon be putting out the Valentine Day displays.
Likewise, the churches turn their attention to Jesus the adult and the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes remains a cute afterthought until the cycle repeats.
In a way we do need to move on. Not only does our culture need to put the hustle and bustle of frantic shopping behind us, but the church also has more of the Christ’s story to tell. Yet I wonder, are there messages and meanings which must be pondered in our hearts as we move into another year?
It may not be as important to remember a baby in a manger as it is to recall that the word became flesh; this one who invaded our planet is none other than Emmanuel, God with us. But we need to also think beyond doctrinal truths and consider the significant implications of that message.
Jesus Christ came into our world to save; no Christian would dispute that message. Yet Christ also came to provide us with an example of what it means when we confess his reign is breaking into our world. Jesus also walked among us as one who heals, one who comforts, one who addressed social injustices imposed from the dominant power of Rome.
Consider one little Christmas passage: “there was no room for them in the inn.” I recall Sunday School materials of a heartless innkeeper sending Joseph and an expectant Mary out into the cold. It might not have actually looked the way such artists rendered the image, but it always serves as a reminder to me that an early value in the covenantal law was hospitality. The foreigner and stranger were to be welcomed. There should be room in the inn for all.
The rate of increase in the cost of apartment rentals in the Northwest is higher than any other part of the nation. Seniors and others on fixed incomes are seeing themselves gradually priced out of shelter. Subsidized single-bedroom apartments in our community have a waiting list of two to three years. Homelessness finds its origin when people can no longer afford their housing.
There is a coalition of concerned citizens who have banded together to explore affordable housing on the Plateau. The group includes people from government, churches and commerce.
The ultimate goal is to help those at risk, particularly seniors, remain in safe and stable living quarters. This Affordable Housing Coalition will next meet at noon, Jan. 9, at Enumclaw City Hall. If you have a heart and a passion for the vulnerable, join us as we work toward the day when all people will have room in the inn.
After all, the reality of Christmas must extend beyond nostalgia and translate into action. That’s how we take the word made flesh out into the world.
Walt Rice writes from Trinity Lutheran Church in Enumclaw.