In loving memory of
Cassandra Barnes, Anthony Belcher, Charles Berrier, Joe Boatman, Steven Bowen, Timothy Bryan, Ruby Butler, Steven Buszinski, Bruce Christy David Cooney, Henrietta Dickson, Johnny Hicks, Patricia Hill, Randy Howell, Raymond Johnson, Lloyd Jordan, Steven Kirby, Daniel Krufka, Glenn Livingston, Zachary Loughlin, Alan Mason, Edward Pederson, Elma Probeck Reames, Lawrence Rowe, Kyle Schlittenhart, Dennis Showard, Michael Sproul, Matthew Stewart, Ronald Sullivan, William Thornburg, Theresa Turbak, Bradley Tutwiler, Mary Jane Veerman, Fred Waters, Walter Weaver, Jr.
These are the names of the homeless people who have died in our area in the past year. They were remembered at an Interfaith Memorial Service for the Pinellas County Community Sunday Dec. 21 at 5:00 p.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church in downtown St. Petersburg. There were several additional names added of people who had died just that weekend.
The Memorial Service in St. Pete was part of a national memorial held each year on Dec. 21, the shortest day of the year. Or, as we were reminded at the service, the longest night of the year.
To me, the solstice is the shortest day of the year. The limited daylight makes me feel like I have to get everything I want to get done in a shorter time because once it gets dark, I think of being done for the day. To me, darkness is a time to leave work behind, read, wind down, go to sleep in the comfort of my warm bed with a dog at the foot of the bed keeping my feet warm. It’s a time to sink into those luscious hours of dreaming.
But as I learned at the Memorial Service, for homeless people December 21 is the longest night of the year. This means more hours of cold to endure outside. It means less time to see what you are doing without the aid of artificial light. It means more time vulnerable and exposed as a potential victim of violence. More darkness means more fear and more discomfort for those who are homeless.
As we approach the celebration of the birth of Jesus, we remember that he teaches us to see in a new way. Jesus teaches us to see things from the perspective of those who are vulnerable, weak, and outcast. He teaches us to see through a lens of justice and compassion, rather than self interest and privilege. When we see the world through the eyes of Jesus, we see the stark honesty of love, beauty, terror, and pain.
For reflection: Think of one example of how have you come to see life differently because of Jesus.
Prayer: In the Christmas story, we are told that there was no room at the inn so Jesus was born in a barn. May we have eyes to see those who are not welcome. May we see those who feel outcast. May we be sensitive to those who feel they do not belong. With our eyes open, we can help to create a world that is a safe home for all. Amen.