A light shines in Charlotte
From Rev. Dr. Tom Kort, Sardis Presbyterian Church, Charlotte, NC December 24, 2000
I wonder if you know that something is going to happen tonight in this church that has never, ever happened before in the 210-year history of Sardis. This has never happened. Tonight, this Christmas Eve, for the first time ever in our goodly heritage, homeless neighbors will be sleeping at Sardis. They’ll be here as part of "Room at the Inn.” Think about it. “Room at the Inn.” Bethlehem. . . Jesus. . . God’s people. . . it all starts to make sense, doesn’t it?
Let me tell you what happened a week ago when I came to “Room at the Inn” for the early 5:00 shift. That night we had 9 homeless men, 2 homeless women, and a homeless child, age 2 ½. I hope I do not need to remind this congregation that the fastest growing population among the homeless are women and children. When I arrived, I noticed in the hallway a stack of books by a chair; and as I got closer I noticed that they were children’s books. As I inquired about them, one of the members who had spent the night told me that the little boy, the one age 2 ½, had a very difficult time falling asleep. His father and the woman who was with him were dead tired, so they immediately fell asleep, but this little one just couldn’t get his eyes to close. One of our deacons, a bright, young, single adult who spends all of her days uptown in the corporate world of Charlotte, took that little boy and held him on her lap, and in the warmth of her arms, she read children’s stories until he fell asleep.
The next morning, we had a hard time waking him up. 5:30 a.m. comes early to anyone. It comes early when you’re only 2 ½. He cried, because he didn’t want to get up. He wanted to stay where it was warm and safe; but we had to put him on the van with our other homeless neighbors, tears and all. His father came running back down the hallway. He'd forgotten something, and he saw me. Because they had asked me to say the grace at breakfast, he figured I was the preacher. He looked at me and said, “Would you do me a favor and tell all your people ‘thank you’?” I said to him, “I never asked -- what’s the name of your little boy?”
He said to me, “His name is Emmanuel.”
God with us. Now I do not know what you might make of that situation, but do you think that God was with us? Do you think it’s possible that that is precisely and exactly what Jesus meant when he said, “What you have done for the least of these, you have done for me”? Do you think in all the significant things that happened that day in the city, in all the corporate buildings and oak-paneled offices, all the power lunch meetings and all the million-dollar decisions that were made, do you think anyone took notice of a deacon holding a child? And if someone says, "Well, Tom, that’s a nice story, but it’s really not going to address the complexities of homelessness in this city," I’ll say, "You’re absolutely right." But don’t you think that it’s better for us to light one candle than just stand by and do nothing and curse the darkness?
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