One year ago, at our Wednesday Christmas drop-in, one of our Sanctuary friends gave me a small Christmas cactus. Pete is a very kind and soft-spoken man, with a spirit of love and generosity. He had shared with me that he didn’t have family, had lost his wife years ago, had very little money, and lived alone in a small bachelor apartment – a life that became very lonely sometimes. And yet, despite these struggles, he was bringing gifts to his friends! To me! The cactus was a beautiful blessing, reminding me that I was loved and not alone.
Two weeks ago, as our Sanctuary community headed into advent, I was stung by mixed emotions: sadness and grief of hopes laid down and dreams let go, together with the wonderment, anticipation, and deeper knowing of God bringing his own dreams to life with us – how a small candle of joy would be a big and bright light among us. I thought of many joyous moments when we saw God’s face and celebrated his healing; I also remembered the fears we carried: were we really God’s beloved? Would we really have good friends to walk through life with?
A few mornings ago, as I felt the weight of these thoughts, I walked into my kitchen to make a cup of tea, and there was the Christmas cactus Pete had given me one year ago, blooming bright red for the very first time. One large blossom had already reached completion, but there were a few tiny red buds still waiting to open into the fullness of the image God had made them to be, waiting on what was to come.
I thought about the Lord’s prayer: Your Kingdom come… on Earth as it is in Heaven. I knew what I desperately wanted it to look like. For hurts to be healed, broken relationships reconciled, hope renewed, and healthy love to blossom. Why were things still so messy, and when would they be set right? And what could I possibly offer my friends as I stood among them?
And then as I chatted with Darryl, he reminded me that this was exactly the thing we could offer: standing among one another, being with one another – so that none of us are alone in our struggles. Emmanuel. God with us. This, I realized, was the direction towards joy.
At Sanctuary, one of our favourite things to do is spend time together. In joy and celebration, and in hard times. Hanging out together at dropins, playing cards, telling funny stories, laughing at silly jokes, sharing our stories and hurt, and just being ourselves. Being home together. Being for each other a little bit of advent light. At our Wednesday dropin this week, we will share a Christmas meal – twelve tables of friends together – twelve families combined into one very large family. Thursday night, we will gather for another Christmas meal at First Baptist church, where almost 200 friends will gather from Sanctuary and Streetlight. All kinds of people with all kinds of stories – with homes and without, with family and without, with children and without, with healing and brokenness, with joy and with sorrow – and all having one thing in common – a desire for connection, togetherness, and home.
Last Sunday night, Gil reminded us that God looks at each of us with so much love – that we are already wonderful in his eyes. He is already pleased with us! He rejoices over us! And this is what I hope we can be for each other this Christmas and all year long: standing together, and reminding each other that we are God’s beloved, that he loves us, and that with us, he is well pleased. This is the good news born in a manger!
We pray that this Christmas, as friendships blossom and we walk together in love and community, God’s Kingdom will come just a little bit closer, and our dreams will meet his, just a little bit more.