It’s an exciting time to be a follower of Christ. It’s Advent. It’s the time of the year when we specifically focus on the beauty, the mystery, the joy, the wonder that is the incarnation. The Word became flesh. Jesus came into our world. God trampled cosmological boundaries and showed up in a manger.
Pair that reality with the reality kids in El Recuerdo face this time of year – violence increases as kids are out of school and don’t have anything to do. The season of Santa and gifts reminds them of all they lack materially. The image of families gathered around a table highlights their broken families and lack of food.
This past week I heard a story from one of our volunteer leaders, who is now 22 years old. He shared a story of his childhood, of a Christmas when his family didn’t have money to do anything out of the ordinary. That Christmas, his friends all received light up sneakers – the sneakers he, too, wanted. So, he taped a small string of Christmas lights to each of his shoes and paraded around the house in his sneakers.
The story simultaneously broke my heard and made me smile – the ingenuity of a child coupled with the stark reality that everyone has a Christmas standard they are trying to achieve, one that is often far off base from the standard set that first Christmas.
God set the Christmas standard pretty low. He chose vulnerability over power, he chose a stable over a palace, he chose mystery and wonder over expectation. He chose a baby. He chose a manger. He chose a poor, young, scandalized couple. Why is it, then, that our Christmas standard is opposite?
What joy there is in the Christmas story. From the Wise Men to the Shepherds, the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor find hope in the birth of a baby. It truly is good news to our friends in El Recuerdo that God chose to send his son into a community whose reputation is much like that of their community. And so we, as Young Life leaders, share this good news with teenagers. We point them to the God who loves them so much that he sent his son both to be born and to die for them.