Every other month it is my responsibility to lead worship services in three residential facilities. One of the places I go would be considered a 'regular' nursing home. Another is a mental health facility for adults and elderly people. The third place is an Alzheimers Unit. I would have to say that the place I most enjoy going is the Alzheimers Unit. It may be because my grandfather was in a similar facility for several years and I visited him regularly with my parents. Watching my grandfather's gradual decline with Alzheimers was certainly a painful experience. However, strange as it may sound, there was a certain joy in the Alzheimers Unit.
I can feel that same joy among the staff and the residents where I led worship last week. Month to month the residents certainly do not remember me, but are always happy to see me and joyful at my arrival. This month they sang their Christmas Carols with un-self-conscious joy. When I was about to leave one woman pulled me aside and said that I was a 'gift from heaven.' Well, I think that may be a BIT of an overstatement, but it certainly felt like a gift to be there at that moment! It was truly a reminder that wherever we find ourselves this Christmas season ~ healthy, overburdened, joyful, afflicted by physical or mental disease ~ God is in our midst. Jesus is our Emmanuel ~ God with us.