Advent: Peace

Recently I met with someone who described themselves to me as a misfit. This individual shared with me some painful pieces of their story. Abuse, rejection and betrayal that was hard for me to imagine.

At the end of our time together, we prayed.

I asked them to imagine Jesus walking into the room and looking them in the eyes with love and compassion. As we visualized this in our minds, it was as if Jesus really did enter the room. A heavy peace rested in the home.
It was a fresh reminder for me that what Jesus said in Matthew 25 is true. When we feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, care for the sick and visit those in prison, we do so for Jesus.

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

If I learned anything from six years working in prison ministry, it’s that Jesus is uniquely present on the margins. People would often first get into prison ministry with an earnest desire to share the Gospel with people who need to hear it, to “bring Jesus” behind bars. But the ones who would stick with prison ministry the longest were the ones who came to realize Jesus is already there, and they would keep going back (or writing back) not just to evangelize … but to meet with Jesus.

During Jesus’ ministry, he could be found most often with tax collectors, prostitutes, sinners and outcasts. Not only was his ministry on the margins, but his arrival was on the margins. The Prince of Peace was born out of wedlock to a poor teenage Jewish girl, who was marginalized socially and politically in an area occupied by the Romans. The baby Jesus slept his first night in a feeding trough.

Trappist monk and writer Thomas Merton wrote: “Into this world, this demented inn, in which there was absolutely no room for him at all, Christ has come uninvited. But because he cannot be at home in it, because he is out of place in it, and yet he must be in it, his place is with those others for whom there is no room. His place is with those who do not belong, who are rejected by power because they are regarded as weak, those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, tortured, excommunicated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world.”

Jesus wages peace not by politicking in the halls of power but through washing dirty feet, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, restoring dignity to the outcasts and ultimately by dying the death of a criminal. It seems to me he was right at home with the misfits. This is where I want to feel at home too.

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