It is overcast, drizzly, cold. Cars inch forward along the exit ramp onto South Kingshighway near the Barnes-Jewish Hospital complex. Further ahead stands the outline of a panhandler. I cringe. With each change of the stoplight, I move closer. A stooped woman braces herself against cutting winds as she walks toward us; her sign says it all: Homeless – Hungry – Merry Christmas!

I open my window and wave. She stoops, eye-level with me, then flashes a toothless grin and takes the health bar offered her. “God bless you!” she says, her milky eyes alive with mirth. In the rear view mirror, I follow her mincing steps toward other motorists, noting as well her stained high-top tennis shoes with broken laces. The stoplight changes and I drive on.

But she remains with me. I’ve glimpsed the disheveled hag who lives within me, even reluctantly befriended her. At times, my inner homelessness, my disorientation, my ill-formed choices with consequences, my rebellion sickens me. Although not on the streets, vulnerable and isolated, my angst yearns for deliverance.

Into just such circumstances, The Word of God incarnated among us to teach us to love the unlovely in ourselves and in others through the practice of humility, honesty, and forgiveness. He even showed us how to do it—Kingdom living, He called it. Such a transforming gift that never tarnishes!

Merry Christmas!