A Gift of Understanding and Hope
By Rev. Cheryl Cook-Posley
God is here, and He knows what life is like.
It’s been a rough 2020 for all of us, yet during this season of Advent, a time of expectation, many of us are extremely grateful and filled with hope. Expectation connotes waiting, and waiting has two sides—negative and positive. We wait with trepidation and anxiety to hear the outcome of a medical test yet children giggle and wait with great joy to see if Santa will honor their Christmas wishes.
Even when hopeful, however, waiting is still difficult. This is especially true because as I write this, we stand on the precipice of full deployment of the highly anticipated Covid-19 vaccine. We have hopeful, expectant hearts for what is yet to come, while in the midst of all of this we are contemplative as we recall how the Lord has kept us during this devastating pandemic, and we eagerly anticipate what the New Year holds.
A Familiar Time
In many ways, first-century Palestinian believers were experiencing cultural, economic and political strife similar to what we have today. They awaited the One promised, but who they imagined was akin to the pompous rulers of that day. They expected someone who would come with great majesty and worldly royalty to vanquish the evil enemy and deliver them from the oppressor. That’s not what happened—and that’s not who came. The great lyricist Fannie Crosby reminds us of Jesus’ humble beginnings in the 1880 hymn “1Tell Me the Story of Jesus.” In the third verse she describes Jesus when she pens, “He was despised and afflicted, homeless, rejected and poor.”
It is very difficult for us even now to contemplate that our very own Lord and Savior, the Messiah, was born homeless, rejected and poor. This Jesus was refused housing (he was homeless). Our Lord Jesus the Christ was born in an animal feeding trough (he was poor). The setting was not bucolic—Mary gave birth in a barn, surrounded by farm animals who stood as members of Jesus’ royal court (rejected). His mother was unmarried and pregnant, and his father was perhaps embarrassed and poor (afflicted). Stigma and rejection surrounded this family in crisis, and truly this seemed like a hopeless and helpless situation.
Look once more. Our Lord’s birth resembles reality for thousands among us who daily experience poverty and homelessness in the District of Columbia!
At Central Union Mission, our staff understand that many of our neighbors who access our services are weighed down from the burden of poverty and homelessness. These precious lives exist in a “double conscious” state of mind, constantly wrestling with who they are now and who they hope to become, fighting the stigma of being perceived as ignorant, addicted and lazy and facing the challenge of being poor, helpless and invisible.
Not the End of the Story
The Mission believes humble beginnings can open doors to great transformation. While many of our neighbors experience the diseases and challenges of addiction, food and housing insecurity, unemployment and hopelessness, this does not have to be their legacy. Faith teaches us that it is precisely what we don’t see that serves as the overwhelming evidence of what we hope for. Through dedicated staff efforts and loyal donor support, men, women and children are able to access various service lines designed to help them to get back on their feet.
For example, at the Family Ministry Center, healthy groceries get families through to the next payday. Our Workforce Development & Education Department provides twenty-first-century job readiness training, education and job placement to include enrolling men in certification and university degree programs. The Mission’s Social Work Department partners with housing professionals throughout the DMV area to secure housing and other support services so participants can walk into self-sufficiency.
As we reflect upon the end of this challenging year, let us embrace Gabriel’s declaration to Mary as our own, and proclaim that “All things are possible with God.” This expression truly amplifies the hope, light and love of this season and serves as the closing benediction for 2020, a reminder that it’s not how we start that matters, but how we finish. Beloved, Emmanuel is come—God is with us!
Comments? Email: CCook-Posley@missiondc.org
|| Dr. Cheryl Cook-Posley is senior director of Central Union Mission’s Workforce Development & Education (WDE) program. She leads PATHWAYS: Innovations in Employment and Education, the Mission’s workforce development initiative for guests experiencing homelessness.
Dr. Cook earned a doctor of ministry in urban ministry from the Wesley Theological Seminary, a master of divinity from Howard University School of Divinity, a master’s degree in public administration with an emphasis on policy and evaluation from L. Douglas Wilder School of Public Policy at Virginia Commonwealth University and a bachelor of science in political science from Arizona State University.Through WDE, Mission Men transition from a state of dependence and homelessness to long-term economic self-sufficiency through employment permanence. WDE places an emphasis on entry level-to-intermediate positions in the science, technology, engineering and math [STEM] fields, hospitality, culinary, labor, administration and Green industries. The Mission seeks to educate, engage and employ men in positions of promise that enable them to achieve economic and employment permanence.