Decking the Ministry Center

christmas-mc-2015“I’ve never decorated a Christmas tree before,” “Carl” shared with me a couple of weeks ago as we were hanging ornaments. His smiled reached to both ends of his face as I handed him each ornament. That afternoon, we spread Christmas cheer on every surface of our new building. We had hot cocoa and cookies galore. I wasn’t sure if the men would get into it, but they took the reins and in a few short hours there were lights and decorations everywhere. One man took out a ladder to hang a wreath and lights. Another guy created a fake fireplace and draped garland everywhere. It was one of the most fun days I’ve had in the Ministry Center!

During these festivities, “Denny” sat on the couch and didn’t participate. I went to sit with him and, without asking him why he wasn’t joining in, he offered, “I’m really overwhelmed by the joy and laughter. I’m still getting used to it. Does that make sense?” I wanted to embrace him and cry, but I just reassured him that that was okay. So we just sat and watched everyone else in the Christmas glow. A few minutes later, Denny got up and hung a few ornaments on the tree before sitting back down.

Every year, my mom and I go to the lot and pick out a Christmas tree. There have been years I was actually annoyed that we had to decorate a tree, and asked her to do it by herself. This year, I took a train home for the specific purpose of getting a Christmas tree. I hope I never take this for granted again. There is something about preparing our homes along with our hearts for the coming of Christ. We deck out our houses for Christ’s coming much like the Passover crowds spread palm branches on His way to Jerusalem.

christmas-card

This morning when I checked my mailbox, there was a homemade Christmas card from one of our men in prison. I have been showing it to everyone, because the handiwork is so detailed and impressive. The message enclosed read, “I can’t thank you all enough, as well as the Father above, for putting you in our lives with such caring hearts and loving spirits.”

Lately, I have been running into a little opposition in my job as Educational Ministries Director. I was establishing a partnership with a college, and a professor and I were planning meaningful ways we could get students involved at Emmaus. But, discouragingly, once another professor heard more about the men we serve, he put a kibosh on the whole thing and the group had to back out.

While I don’t need reminders of why Emmaus exists, my recent moments with Carl and Denny make it so clear and undeniable: Emmaus is here so Carl can decorate a Christmas tree and so Denny can experience authentic joy.

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