At the beginning of this Christmas season our minister, Dave, preached some hard words. With utter certainty he stated that we need to love the least of these. Those weren’t the hard words. We hear that admonition often. No, what caught me off-guard and slid under the third and fourth layers of my skin was what he what he said after this.
He paced across the front of the sanctuary rubbing his tilted-down head and then looked up at us and said, “The least of these are not always who you think they are.”
My head shot up from my pen scribbling on the bulletin.
They are not always the poor, the needy, the lame, the blind, the handicapped, and the challenged. Often they are not who you think they are. And because we have a preconceived notion of who they are in our minds, we often overlook them. We often don’t see them.
Then he said the really hard words.
Sometimes we are the least of these.
Those were the hard words. The unexpected words.
I have been on a mission this season. I have been looking for the least of these.
I am, however, looking for people who look like me: people who hide behind elaborate masks and put up fortified walls. I search for people who hide their least-ness, like me, with bravado. I look for people who smile a wide smile, but it doesn’t reach their eyes. I seek out the people who struggle to shore up their weaknesses, who have blood seeping from their wounds.
It’s not hard to find us.
Dave challenged us to search for and find the least of these and do what we can. He told us to step outside our comfort zones and bless the least of these. In a sense he explained that we needed to change our perspectives. We need to look at people and situations from a different vantage point.
The Christmas play unfolded before us. My attention was focused on the drama, but I kept seeing the two boys in my peripheral vision.
The almost five year old, Wyatt, couldn’t see. Too many heads and bodies were in his way. He wasn’t allowed to stand on the chair, but he wanted to see his siblings who were center stage. He didn’t want to miss their parts. At one point I looked down the row and sixteen year old Ben was standing with his back pressed in and against the corner of the wall. He had Wyatt on his shoulder, his hands holding the little boy’s legs securely so he wouldn’t fall. Ben stood in this spot for the duration of the play, and Wyatt got to watch the whole Christmas production from Ben’s shoulders. What a vantage point.
While milling and mingling during the play’s reception I was privy to another incredible interaction. In the middle of this social congestion Joshua* (who has very limited reasoning and logical abilities) looked at Caleb and said, you love me this much, right? And he spread his hands a few inches apart. Caleb looked Joshua squarely in the eye and said, No, Buddy. I love you this much.” and spread his hands a few feet apart. Joshua was delighted.
One blessed with action; one blessed with words.
Wyatt, a tiny boy whose vision was obscured, was one of the least of these.
Joshua, who often feels unwanted and unloved, was one of the least of these.
In those moments Ben and Caleb were being and doing what Dave had asked of us. They stepped outside their comfort zones, outside of protocol, outside of the norm and ministered to someone in need. The changed their perspectives in order to change someone else’s.
Loving the least of these is really about changing perspectives—we exchange ours for His. God’s presence makes us aware of the least of these. Being in his presence alters our perspective.
It really is simple, yet we often make it complicated. Ask Ben and Caleb. This Christmas just follow their examples:
Lift people up so they can see. We need to set them on our shoulders if necessary. Hold to them tightly so they don’t slip and fall.
Love people right where they are. Then go one step further. We need to see the wounds in people and let our words be a healing ointment. When someone asks for inches give them feet. Go beyond what is expected. Give just a little bit more than what most people think is necessary.
This Christmas season we need to ask who are we overlooking? Who are we not seeing? Who are the least of these in our lives right now?
Enter into God’s presence and ask Him to change your perspective. You can’t be in his presence very long and not be aware of the least of these.
And remember: at one point or another we are all the least of these.
Heavenly Father, thank you that you love the least of these. And that means you love us. Thank you that you see through our bravado. You see through the masks. You see we are in need even if we don’t want to acknowledge it. You see where we need to be lifted up and you love us right where we are. Oh, may we be like you. May we look at others the way you do. Help us, Father. Help us love the least of these. Amen.
Daily Activity: Often we think in order to minister to others we have to do something extraordinary, but in reality it’s only the little things that are needed. Ask God what you can do today, what good and ordinary thing, you can do for one of the least of these in your life. Remember this might include you.
* Not the young man's real name.