There were no women eating at Ron and Cheng’s Home-Cooked Chinese Food restaurant on New Years Day. The only female in sight was the courteous clerk that dipped my black-eyed peas, collard greens, fried pork chop and corn bread from the buffet onto the white styrofoam plate. She laid the plate on an orange tray along with three paper napkins, a white plastic fork and a 16 oz. matching styrofoam cup. I slid into the booth with my lunch and perused the café for fellow feasters. There were two men seated at similar booths; two children accompanied each. One man was seated with two rambunctious boys. I assumed these to be his sons. The other was with a girl and boy. I assumed these were his children. Neither man was wearing a wedding ring. (I know I’m doing a lot of assuming here.) I assumed these were children spending a portion of their holiday with Dad - maybe the result of a custody arrangement or maybe simply the kind gesture of a former but friendly spouse. Three other middle aged men dined alone. I never expected to be one of them.
Just days from now – on January 12 – the church will celebrate the baptism of Jesus. John the Baptist called all the sinners within earshot to repent and be baptized so that their sins might be forgiven. Jesus got in line. Lining up with all those sinners may have been the fullest moment of his incarnation. He didn’t try to look or act superior to any of us. He just got in line. He not only became one us, he identified with us.
Maybe becoming one of them is one of the most Christ-like things that can happen to us. If the parable is true, Christ dwells in the hungry, naked, sick, imprisoned, and lonely and other ‘thems’ of the world. I’ve become one of them. And rather than being consumed with an anticipated sadness and loneliness…I’ve found God there.