Love, Joy, Hope, Peace.
I suspect that these advent themes must seem like a far away dream for many of our Outreach guests whose lives often consist of disappointments, hardships, difficult relationships, and chaotic circumstances.
But for this one evening at least, the season brought a glimpse of each of these themes reflected in their faces as our guests gathered for a Christmas party...
~Expressed through each of the volunteers that gave their time to make this party happen, and received so gratefully by our guests who could bask in an environment where they are truly loved and cared for.
~ Expressed by the comradery and visiting and laughter that happened around the tables as our guests fellowshipped with each other.
~Expressed through the generosity of so many people who donated gifts to give away at this event.
~ Expressed on the faces of guests walking into a nicely decorated party room set up just for them, some of the guests themselves having dressed in their finest clothes.
~Expressed in the faces of old and young alike, as they anticipated and later received gifts. It was such a joy to be able to experience the uninhibited joy of the kids with their Lego sets, toys and dolls, as well as the somewhat inhibited glee of the adults being able to pick something not necessarily practical, but something luxurious.
I’ll always remember the excitement of the man who picked a fuzzy blue teddy bear. Not because he needed it – but because he wanted it and had the luxury of choosing something that reminded him of his childhood and better days gone by.
And the young woman who felt overwhelmed at being able to choose something for herself – not having had a present under the tree since she was 15.
~Expressed through the hearty singing of Christmas carols, and the dancing of young children.
~ Expressed through so many individual stories that tell of hard times, but through the lens of hope for a brighter future.
~Expressed through the conversation with a young man, having been recently incarcerated, who is determined to start fresh and make better choices.
~ The peace that settled over the room as the lights turned off and everyone joined in the singing of Silent Night.
It was truly a holy night, as the presence of the Prince of Peace permeated throughout the space of the room and our hearts.