Dios Con Nosotros: God With Us
Just say it: Feliz…Feliz. Navidad…Navidad.
My husband Bill was receiving his first Spanish lesson—in front of five thousand Spanish-speaking Chicagoans filling the Willow Creek auditorium. This is the first year our church offered one of our repeated Christmas services—called God With Us—entirely in Spanish. Musicians and actors from Casa de Luz, our Spanish-speaking congregation, created their own version of the English program presented to the rest of the Willow congregation. Hector Hermosillo, our Spanish-speaking pastor from Mexico, presented his adaptation of my husband’s Christmas sermon. Hector’s wife, Gabby, gave announcements and explained that a major portion of Willow’s annual “End-of-Year” offering would be devoted to Casa de Luz and to the Willow Care Center and Food Pantry. Many of those attending the service heard about it when they visited the Food Pantry.
I have been attending Willow Christmas services for thirty-four years, but rarely have I felt the sense of Dios Con Nosotros that I felt last night. In 1975, Bill and I were 23-year-old, small-town Michiganders starting “a church for people who don’t go to church.” We certainly did not imagine a future that included celebrating Christmas in Spanish in a Chicago suburb. But never have I felt our youthful “dream of what the church could be” more fully lived-out than it was last night.
We have made plenty of mistakes over the years, failing to be as wise and discerning as we ought to have been. But I know to the core of my being that God was smiling on our Christmas service last night. I am convinced that our growing Spanish-speaking congregation is a gift of God’s grace to us. He has entrusted us with the privilege of touching this precious group of people who are too often relegated to the sidelines of American life. He is allowing their beautiful language, their rich culture, their strong family ties, their warmth and expressiveness to change us, to soften us, to help us see God—Emmanuel—in new ways.
I first wrote about Hector and Gabby and Casa de Luz in regard to the need for immigration reform. It is estimated that 80% of the people who visit Casa de Luz and our Care Center are undocumented immigrants. Some originally came to this country legally; some didn’t; most came to escape extreme poverty; many suffer because of the separation of families; most work hard and long to become contributing members of their new American community. No, this doesn’t erase the complexity of the immigration debate, but it does reframe the issue. For us at Willow, the “strangers at our gates” have become our brothers and sisters, gifts of God’s grace to our faith community, and a most welcome part of our future. Thank you, God, for trusting us with this new community of Your beloved children.