It’s Christmas Eve, and we are having our Community Dinner Church service. We meet very Tuesday in a parking garage downtown. The heat lamps are warm and toasty. The tablecloths are draped over a mismatch of round and square tables. Charlie Brown Christmas is playing on Spotify, we are ready to go. The meal is salad, mashed potatoes, and pork loin with cranberry and caramelized onion. We have chocolate mousse cake and Christmas cookies for dessert. When I start cutting the pork loin a silent awe falls over the dozen or so folks waiting in line. The meal is special and so are the people who have come to have dinner church with us. We sing Silent Night and pass out glow sticks. Our version of the traditional candle – light service. I share the story of Christs birth. God’s redemption and hope announced in a barn through unwed teenagers nobody believes, the Holy Spirit conceiving the inconceivable. The parking garage is the best place to celebrate the birth of Christ. “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem” (Isaiah 53:2-3). The people at our Christmas Eve service know the Jesus who suffers and is rejected. The women in the domestic violence shelter know what it’s like to not be believed, to flee violence. The Christmas story is hope in the shadow of suffering.
My friend Irene gives me a big hug and a Merry Christmas. She can’t work because of her disability so she volunteers her time serving. She stays in a shelter and is content to help people in more need then herself. A transgender woman chats with my wife over chocolate Santa’s and coffee. Harold tells me that the Mashed potatoes are the truth. “You can’t beat the price either!” How did I ever go to church anywhere else? Jesus is in the parking garage.
We start to wrap up. Tables are put away, chairs are stacked, and to go containers filled. “Merry Christmas” and “have a good night” are exchanged. A gentleman who has a new bike that he received for free from a nonprofit shakes my hand, thanks me, and tells me an old Proverb. “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done” (Proverbs 19:17 NIV). I agree and proclaim, “He already has!”