Sunday, December 26, 2010

A very special Christmas story

Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Children's Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.

Mrs. Edelman's Child Watch Column also appears each week on The Huffington Post and

I "lifted" the following story from Edelman's column.  She reports on a very special Christmas Eve sermon delivered at the Riverside Church in New Yorik City by her friend William Sloan Coffin, Jr.  Her Christmas story provides all the direction we need to craft a better community as we begin our first steps toward next Christmas, don't you think? 

. . . it was Christmas Eve and the pews at New York City’s Riverside Church were packed. The Christmas pageant was underway and had come to the point at which the innkeeper was to turn away Mary and Joseph with the resounding line, “There’s no room at the inn!” The innkeeper was played by Tim, an earnest youth of the congregation who had Down Syndrome. Only one line to remember: “There’s no room at the inn!” He had practiced it again and again with his parents and the pageant director and seemed to have mastered it.

So Tim stood at the altar, bathrobe costume firmly belted over his broad stomach, as Mary and Joseph made their way down the center aisle. They approached him, said their lines as rehearsed, and waited for his reply. Tim’s parents, the pageant director, and the whole congregation almost leaned forward as if willing him to remember his line.

“There’s no room at the inn!” Tim boomed out, just as rehearsed. But then, as Mary and Joseph turned on cue to travel further, Tim suddenly yelled “Wait!” They turned back, startled, and looked at him in surprise.

“You can stay at my house!” he called.

Well, Tim had so effectively preached the Christmas Eve message at Riverside Church that Bill Coffin strode to the pulpit, said “Amen,” and sat down. It was the best sermon he never preached.

When will we individually and collectively as congregations, as communities, and as a nation resolve to stop saying to our children, “There’s no room at the inn”? When will we, like Tim, start saying, “You can stay at my house”? As the recession’s dangerous effects linger, when will we say to poor, hungry, and homeless children, “Wait! We’ll make a place for you at America’s table”? How long until we say to children whose parents are working hard every day trying to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads, “We will help you escape poverty”? “We’ll catch you in our safety net until your family is able to provide for you again”?

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