With Rested and Joyful Souls

December 16: Third Sunday in Advent
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; Luke 1:46-55

The soup bowls had been washed and neatly stacked away. Shopping carts and paper bags with years' worth of collected string, cans, broken umbrellas, and other street items had been dragged in out of the snow and were parked in the church's foyer.

In a corner of the fellowship hall, a small circle of women sang "O Little Town of Bethlehem," slightly off-key, while others pulled sleeping mats onto the floor. When the singing ended and the 30 mats were in place, the women selected their spots for the night.

It had been a fairly quiet evening. Dinner had progressed smoothly. The singing had awakened the memories of women who had not sung carols for years—some had cried—and reminded us all that Christmas was just a week away. There was a warm spirit at the overnight shelter that evening, and I hoped for a quiet night.

Not long after I thought the women were settled, however, I heard voices at the far end of the room. Soon a shouting match erupted. One woman accused another of stealing her coat when she had closed her eyes to sleep. In order to avoid such situations, many of the women wore three, four, five layers of clothing—all they owned—even in the summer and when they slept.

In her defense, the accused woman began calling the other names, amounting to a long string of synonyms for "prostitute." The accuser told her she was a "no-good good-for-nothing." And the accused responded, "Oh yeah? I'm better than you'll ever be. I'm royalty—I have the Rothschilds on my mother's side and the three Wise Men on my father's!" End of discussion.

I was a bit amused at the interchange. I thought immediately of the Magnificat, Mary's words of praise to God while she carried Jesus in her womb. For, in some sense, the mighty were put down from their thrones that night.

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