Celebrate your uniqueness
by REV. LAURIE TENHAVE-CHAPMAN
First Congregational Church
I lug my sticky assortment of cans and bottles to the return center in the grocery store. I’m impatient enough that I look for two return machines side by side. Then I can feed both simultaneously with my 10 cent empties. Things proceed smoothly until I slide an older can into the can canal. The bar code is faded. After a few spins, the machine spits it back at me: “Cannot read barcode,” the message scolds me. I’ve learned to try it in the other machine. Sure enough, the other machine seems more sensitive. It recognizes the faded barcode as being worthy of a dime’s worth of reimbursement. Cha-ching! Sometimes a can is rejected with the message, “Store does not accept this brand.” That can is slipped back into my sticky bag, to be added to my recyclables. No value left for that one. With a couple of bucks worth of vouchers and a few straggler empties, I head to the checkout.
Ever felt like your barcode wasn’t recognized by somebody else? Have you been rejected from some social gathering or spit out of some crowd with looks that told you that you didn’t measure up? Have you walked into a church or office or party and sensed that your “type” wasn’t accepted there? All of us have had moments when we knew that we simply didn’t belong.
Long ago Mary and Joseph were told there was no room for them at the inn. The shepherds, who were the first to be told the news of Jesus’ birth, never received invitations to parties because they smelled like their sheep! Some wisemen must have been laughed out of their town as they set off to follow a star, insisting that it would lead to a newborn King. An odd cast of characters who didn’t fit well into their world found that their lives had new meaning when they met the baby Jesus.
That’s still good news for us today. In Jesus, God affirms the worth of each one of us. God celebrates our uniqueness. When we are “faded,” God still can “read” us and respond to our needs. When others might judge us cruelly, God assures us that there is always a place for us at the table.
This Christmas season celebrate the birth of Jesus and receive His gift of unconditional love. You belong to His family!