Last month, at the Braid holiday party, I watched part of the Christmas story being acted out right in front of my eyes.
Here is what happened: About fifteen minutes into the party, we received word that one of the youth we work with at Edgewood Center wouldn’t be able to attend. Her behavior had escalated, and the staff thought it best for her to stay at Edgewood that afternoon.
Two of her mentors – Barie and Rachel – had already arrived at the Braid offices downtown, and a third – Stephanie – was just leaving home. As we relayed the news to them, they were understanding but disappointed. They had looked forward to celebrating together. “We have gifts for her,” they said.
Our wonderful seminarian Marselys, who coordinates the teams at Edgewood, was right in the middle of his final papers and exams, but he immediately jumped on the phone with Edgewood staff to see if there was any way the mentors could connect with their youth and bring her their gifts before the holidays. Word came back that they could visit with her briefly on the Edgewood campus that afternoon.
Without missing a beat, Stephanie changed her course en route, and Barie stepped outside the Braid party to call a Lyft to Edgewood, bearing the gifts from their team and some from Braid. Rachel had to stay behind because of another engagement she had that afternoon, but her teammates promised to Face Time her when they were opening gifts.
As always, I was humbled by the dedication of our mentors and their willingness to put their youth first, especially when it meant not getting to participate in a festive gathering with sparkling cider and pizza and chocolate and the energy and connection of community.
And it reminded me of that very ancient story.
In the Bible stories about the birth of Jesus, three wise men come “from the East,” following a bright star in the sky to visit the baby Jesus. The Bible doesn’t specify exactly how many were in their party, but tradition holds that there were three.
This Braid team of sorts was sent by King Herod, who had evil intentions for wanting to know Jesus’s whereabouts (intentions that the wise men eventually thwarted by keeping the location secret). Herod’s orders were: “Go and search diligently for the child.”
Search they did, and the church year actually stretches out the Christmas story over twelve days to symbolize the distance and time the wise men crossed to reach the child. This Saturday is the feast of the Epiphany, which symbolically marks their arrival in Bethlehem and the last part of the story:
“When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”
I have heard this story all my life, but this year as I read it again, I picture three wise and compassionate women traveling across the city of San Francisco and through the screens of their phones to find and meet an overwrought but deeply precious child where she is in that moment. Instead of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, I see their arms full of books, puzzles, and chocolate bars. And yes, even in the middle of the afternoon, I imagine a bright star hanging over Edgewood, beckoning them there.
Every week, all of our mentors go to great lengths – geographically and spiritually – to meet your youth. Regardless of what happens during your visit, your very presence lets them know that they are worthy of being sought, and being found.
You make them feel like there is a star hanging right above them, marking them as special and chosen.
You rarely bring gifts wrapped in ribbons and bows, but you always bring the greatest gift of all, that of yourselves.