Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Making Spirits Bright

Recently, I attended a special program to gather info for a newspaper story; it will go down as a highlight of this Christmas season for me. In a neighboring city stands the Gautier Community Home - a residential facility for 20 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. These residents – and the church who reached out to them with great love – were the focus of the story.

“They look forward to the party all year,” smiled Terry, a member of the congregation and the recreational therapist for these adults. “They keep asking when it’s going to be.” Well, several days ago, it was time.

The excited group joined others in the sanctuary for the Christmas musical prior to the big “party”. During the program there was a time of congregational carol-singing. Hearing some voices that were a bit loud and definitely off-key, I noticed they came from the section where this group was seated. I grinned, thinking to myself, “They don’t know how they sound and they don’t care, and I just know God is enjoying every minute of it!”

As the church family and guests transitioned to the fellowship area to enjoy some graciously-prepared refreshments, those from the group home were helped through the line. Special tables were set for them close to the gaily-decorated tree. Under the twinkling branches, big bags and boxes of gifts awaited the arrival of a man with a white beard and a red suit.

Suddenly, with a loud “Ho, ho, ho!” Santa (looking a lot like a white-bearded church member) appeared on the scene! It would be hard to say who was more ecstatic - these adults, some of whom were at least 60 - or the children of the church family. The special guest wandered around, giving out candy canes to young and old alike, and then enlisted two cherubic-looking young fellows to be his helpers. As names were read, the boys apprehensively delivered the packages to the appropriate recipients. Squeals of glee spread across the group as they tore into the gifts church members had lovingly purchased and prepared. Several paraded around, showing their treasures to those seated throughout the room.

Joy. It was in great abundance that night, and it rightly should be, as one of the season’s hallmarks. Several favorite Christmas songs echo the joy the angel proclaimed on the night “…the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14a).

As we know, joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Some may argue that what these mentally-challenged adults displayed that night was happiness, not biblical joy. I’m not going to judge that. But think with me; have we lost the incredible wonder of simple faith as we’ve become more educated…more mature…more cynical? I think God treasures the zest for living these group home residents exhibited. Maybe if our lives were less complicated - like that of these special adults - we would sense a release, and begin experiencing more of this special element of the Christian life...JOY! And we’d be more ready to declare: “Joy to the world; the Lord has come!”

Best wishes from lefthandrightbrain:)