Advent Devotional, Dec. 17: “A House for the Homeless Messiah” by Molly Baskette
I’ve moved to a new metropolis recently. I’m no stranger to urban poverty, but something about Bay Area homelessness is a whole new level of human degradation and devastation, contrasted with the teeming nouveau tech wealth that surrounds it like a gold frame around a garbage dump.
My sister, who lives here as well, told me an anecdote of homelessness. She was walking down the street when she encountered, in the middle of the sidewalk, a stark-naked woman cleaning a dead possum and preparing to eat it. Well-dressed techies on their way to dinner stepped around her as if she did not exist.
Even given full-blown mental illness or drug abuse, how does society so fail a person that they end up alone and feral in the midst of plenty?
God came as Jesus to make a home here among us, and yet was homeless in most of the moments we can see as we peer through the Advent calendar windows of his life: his birth in a cave, the pell-mell flight to Egypt, his itinerant preaching years. Maybe this means homes are overrated. Or maybe it was strategic: God sharing our fullest experience, so we would know that She knows what lack is.
Homeless people don’t always choose the streets, but when they do it’s often because they feel safer there than in shelters where they can be robbed or raped.
When people do end up on the streets, they need more than ever for us to treat them like the children of God they are, whatever their behavior: to make eye contact, to say “God bless you,” to offer them food or money. To have eyes to see them in their full humanity, which may restore them in some small way.
Jesus, You came into this world homeless and You left it the same way. And when You finally learned to talk, You told us “as much as you tend the least of these, you tended Me.” Help us to see and serve You, wherever You appear.
United Church of Christ Stillspeaking Devotional Published by Pilgrim Press. Shared with permission of the publisher.