A few years ago, Seth and I hosted what we called an Old Man’s Hat Party, alluding to the nursery rhyme: Christmas is coming. The goose is getting fat. Please put a penny in the old man’s hat. It was absolutely some of the most fun we’ve ever had, with the spread of food and hot drinks – our friends from several circles joining in one boisterous room. We had placed a hat by the back door, and as our friends joined us, they put money in the hat and then wrote their favorite charity down on a small piece of paper. At the end of the night we drew three charities and got to hear about the good works of each, organizations like Kidmia, Mercy House, and 99 Balloons. After hearing and secretly rooting for one, we drew one final time to decide who got all the money. This year we knew we had to do it again and wanted to shift the focus even more to a time of worship. I had planned to move most of our furniture out of the way and not worry so much with the food spread. We sent an invitation to about 80 people, but as it got closer to time and our little one, Titus, became more ill, I became overwhelmed and sent out sad word that we would be canceling the party. Pure Charity was to sponsor it this time, and I was broken-hearted to not have all our friends in one room doing such good together for those in need, but somehow I knew I couldn’t handle it all. I struggled but finally felt resolved to not overdo our family.
The truth is that we’re worn out from worry and hospital stays, from ministry and so much output without stopping to take nourishment in. We may have been inviting so many over because we hadn’t worshipped together since Titus’ immune issues came up. One always has to stay home with the baby.
So when our dear friend texted and asked for the information to get into our evite account, I knew I smelled a rat. I knew they were up to something that involved calling US the needy ones, and I didn’t like it one bit.
Our friends, our Jesus family, they came to a cancelled party at our friend’s home, and the house was loud with laughing, and there was a table of food, and a record player sent the music out until we gathered quietly together and sang such praise to Jesus. I could have been on my face. I could have disappeared, been like dust under the couch. I was so small.
My girlfriend who hosted corrected my begging when I had asked them not to do it. She assured me that it wasn’t about us, the hat by the door to help cover our doctor bills. When we prayed together for Titus, we began with a silence that said nothing but holy, holy, holy, then we whispered Titus’ name, and we said words like JOY and healing. We proclaimed the goodness of the LORD even when we didn’t understand our circumstance.
Something happened in me because of these friends that hasn’t happened in a long time. When I first heard the gospel, I knew I was starving for righteousness with no way to fill myself. This night, the night of the Hijacked Hat Party, I felt it again: my nothingness, the hunger and then the filling, Jesus in the bread, the words read over our ears. How little we have to offer, how tiny we float about in this universe, but then how one hands you an envelope like a payment for work you never did.
I associated myself with the poor, not from the position of giver but rather as receiver, and it hurt and it healed. Suffering, in all its varying degrees, seems to work that way, intertwining wholeness with brokenness.
Worshipping among friends, I looked up to one raising his hands, the one who had lost his daughter. I felt that I looked on ones who reflected Jesus. I felt the compassion of Christ to us all, how He took such poor position on our behalf. I considered it all joy, felt Christmastime in my bones. What an honor it is, church, to be among those who take and eat of such lavishness, how absurd to receive such love.
post by Amber C Haines