The railroad tracks were wider in this area of town. The nights were darker. The cold was colder. It seemed that way to me. It was December sometime in the early 1960s. My brothers and I were riding with my mother into the so-called “bottom” of the small town where we lived. My mother hated that word. We were never allowed to use it even though everyone else in the town did. She said it was a horrible label to slap on the face of a place where people lived. My mother ran the Head Start program in the same neighborhood, so she was very aware of what labels could do to the self-esteem of young children. On this cold, dark December night, we drove deeper into the neighborhood. We were doing what we always did at this time of year. We were delivering gifts and food to families who were truly in despair. Tonight we were to go to Mr. Green’s house. It was hard to call Mr. Green’s house a house. It was more of a shed. The windows were boarded up so the night around his house seemed extra dark. The only sound was the sound of a dog barking in the distance. My brothers and I were scared. My mother was not. She turned off the car and told us to grab the boxes of food and clothing, and we walked up to the concrete block doorsteps and knocked on the door. There was a sound coming from the inside, which sounded like a chair being pulled along the floor. It became louder the closer it got to the door, and then it stopped, only to be followed by the sound of locks being slowly opened. And then the door opened. There stood Mr. Green. When his eyes met my mother, his faced glowed with a brilliance that I have rarely seen on another face since that night. “I’ve been waiting on you Miss Slaughter,” Mr. Green softly whispered. “I knew you would come.” Mr. Green had one chair and one small table and one mattress that sat on the floor. The house had no electricity and no running water. A small fire flickered in the fireplace, but the room seemed to glow with a warmth much greater than what a tiny fireplace could produce. My mother sat and held Mr. Green’s hands and just smiled. Very few words were spoken. We didn’t stay long, and as we walked out the door, Mr. Green, still glowing from the fire dancing off his face, held my mother’s hand and said, “Miss Slaughter, you are my angel.” My mother held his hand even tighter and looked at him and kissed him on the check and said, “No, Mr. Green, it is you who are my angel.”
I believe there hasn’t been an Advent since then that I don’t think about Mr. Green. We are all like Mr. Green. We are all cold and lonely and broken and hurting, and we are all waiting. We are all waiting for a little baby to come down into our brokenness and make us whole. We are all waiting for a little baby child to come into our empty, cold room and warm us. But until that little baby comes again, until God decides to send Him back, well, God sends us. God sends us into the brokenness of each other. Until that time comes again, we are to keep the fires burning. We are to keep the light shining in the cold, dark world in which we all live. Christ prays to God about this Himself. “As You have sent Me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” John 17:18. Advent means we are still waiting for Christ to return, but it also means that until that time comes, He is sending us. He is sending us to share the good news of His love. He is sending us to Mr. Green’s house, and He is sending us to the Amazon, and He is sending us to our coworkers, and He is sending us to the lady at the checkout counter. The world is waiting for the love of Christ. “Whom shall I send?” God asks. The Advent response must be, “Send me!” About 50 years ago, an old man waited on a cold December night for the warmth of a little baby. God sent my mother in His stead.