One day many years ago, being of vague musical talent, I found myself with one or two others as the entertainment at the Christmas get together for a social gathering of older folk at the church I attended. The format was quite simple. Some festive thoughts and reflections interspersed with musical interludes followed by turkey dinner with all the trimmings. As far as I can remember the suitably festive theme running throughout the various reflections was that the opportunity to serve Jesus can come in the most unlikely of guises. They even read that poem – the one where someone has their house all spruced up waiting for Jesus to come and when various other people appear at the door – a tramp, a refugee, a single mother with a small baby – they are refused entry because the owner is waiting for his special guest, not realising that in choosing to help these ones he is choosing to serve Christ.
With a warm and cosy glow we moved from the ‘coffee bar’ to the main hall where dinner would begin. We weren’t long tucking into our turkey when a cry of alarm was heard from the corridor outside. The cause of the distress? The town drunks had found their way in to the church halls and at that very moment were making their way in to the coffee bar where those dining had left all their belongings. With a great rush (it’s amazing how fast the older generation can move when needs must) places were left mid-forkful amid hushed indignant tones (‘they stole my umbrella once you know’) as an exodus ensued to the coffee bar to rescue valued items (like umbrellas I assume).
I was a student so probably didn’t own anything of value anyway but as the scene unfolded dinner seemed to stick uncomfortably in my throat. The irony of the situation seeemed to have been lost on everyone else as they gathered up their precious things and in my mind missed the point of all that had gone on before. Also being a student I was of course very principled and so made my excuses and left before dessert arrived. As I was leaving I noticed that the two newcomers had been brought in to another room and quietly dinner had been offered away from the other guests.
I don’t know why this particular scene has stuck in my mind. The indignation of youth perhaps, or a nagging thought that my self-righteousness about the incident is somehow mispalced… a recognition that in my own life I often have no room for the ones, or the One, who deserve it most.