The Birth of Jesus1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register. 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Now you are probably wondering why I am reading the story of Christmas in June. It is becuase I think that the story of Christ's birth parallels what you are doing here in Appalachia. When God picked the location of his son's birth, of the realization of a promise made to Israel, he picked a backwoods town. Bethlehem was a minor blip on the map, the small town to Jerusalem's big city. Just like this town here in the middle of no where Kentucky (or Virginia if I am in Keokee). God has chosen this town as a place where his promise will come into the world. And that promise will come through you. God is using to to make his love and his promise real to the volunteers, group leaders, fellow staffers, and families that you serve. God's promise and love are revealed through your work, and the work you lead groups to do.
In Celtic theology there is a vision of a veil that separates the divine realm from the earthly realm. In some places that veil is thinner and the separation of God and Man is nonexistent. In these places God is heavily felt. Part of what you are doing here is chiseling away at that veil, thinning it out and making the presence of God a palpable experience through your work. It is possible that some of your families haven't felt God ever, or ever felt that anyone cared for them. You are changing that, you are making God's love and promise a tangible reality.
This is a terrifying thought. What we learn from the shepherds is that that is ok. There is a reason that when angels appear in the bible the first words out of their mouths are "do not be afraid." Getting something from God is terrifying. And there will be days where this job seems incredibly daunting, when you have a volunteer group that isn't getting it, a Group leader who always seems to have a problem, or when the staff are just driving you insane this job will seem impossible, and that is terrifying.
Fortunately there will be days when you feel more like the shepherds at the end of the story, when you have seen the promise fulfilled, when a family gets work finished on their house, when a volunteer group leaves feeling like they accomplished something, when you close out a project that has taken weeks to finish. And you will walk away glorifying God and you will feel so filled up.
Regardless of where you are on the spectrum, terrified or fulfilled you are bringing the promise to these people. God is working through you. Remind yourself of that fact every day, God is using you to make the promise real. This is amazing, wake up everyday and remember that, becuase of you these people will see and feel God's promise and love. Knowing that you will be able to push yourself through terrifying days and understand the days of promise.