"Do you want me to come right away?"
I had a relaxing day after Christmas planned. I had a couple of phone calls to make (one about a baptism), and I had to finish a Sunday-after-Christmas sermon. That was all I had planned.
But then the call came in, about a man from our congregation. One of his relatives called to let me know that he had just put himself in hospice care. She thought he would like to have communion.
In my mind I thought that I could probably stop over the next morning, but when I called their apartment and spoke to his wife, she said that he was not eating anything, and that I should not bring communion. It was then that I blurted out, "Do you want me to come right away?"
He was up in a chair when I arrived, looking pale but smiling warmly. We started to catch up about his life and his illness, and how hospice was taking such good care of him. When I mentioned how I had rushed out of church without my communion kit, he seemed disappointed, and his daughter (who was also visiting) said that she could probably find a little wine and some small pieces of cracker.
While communion preparation was underway in the kitchen, I visited with the man and his wife. I asked him his favorite Bible verse; John 3:16 was what he said. It was a verse he thought of when he spent two years as a Mission Builder. He was proud of the work he had done helping build, or remodel three churches, one in Albuquerque, one in Nebraska, and one in Montana. "We spent two years living in trailers," his wife said.
"What did you do?" I asked him.
"I was the foreman."
The bread and the wine were ready, so confessed our sins and began the communion service.
"What Scripture would you like me to read? Would you like to hear the Christmas story?"
His daughter thought that was a fine idea. She remembered how he read the Christmas story for the whole family, every year. They read the Christmas story as the family grew, with children and grandchildren tumbling through their home.
So on the second day of Christmas, we read the Christmas story. I asked them which was their favorite part of the story. "I like the shepherds out in the field," he said. "Of course, an old farmer," his daughter said. "I like the angel," his wife said. A long time ago, she got to be be the angel in a church pageant. She got to stand in the pulpit, that holy place, and say the words, "Behold, I bring you good news of great joy!" She has never forgotten it. His daughter said she liked the angels singing. His son-in-law said, "I like all of it." Then we talked and we noticed the part about the manger, how Jesus was laid in a manger. And he said,
"He had to be lowly. He had to be the lowliest, to be one of the common, the ordinary. He couldn't be born in a palace, in a rich place. He had to be lowly, to be the lowliest, so that he could reach all of us."
Before we took communion, I asked if there was anything they wanted to pray for.
His daughter started to speak, but then closed her eyes and shook her head. He said, "When I think about my life, my future, I would like to be able to share my faith with my children and grandchildren one more time."
We shared the wine, the bread, the benediction.
I did not finish my sermon.
But I have this: Lowly. He had to be lowly. He had to be the lowliest, to reach all of us.