Weekly Reflections from Advent to Christmas: Week 5 - “The Presence of Christ” by Laura Kisthardt (YDS/ANS ‘20)

December 25, 2020
The fifth week: The Presence of Christ
By Laura Kisthardt (YDS/ANS ‘20)
There is a poem/prayer frequently misattributed to St. Teresa of Avila, exact source unknown:
Christ has no body but yours, 
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body…
Since returning from Arizona, these words have been echoing in my mind. I saw the presence of Christ in so many different places during our trip. Each day was filled with encounters of people and places overflowing with the presence of the Divine. Our visit to Arizona would not have been possible without the many volunteers in the Sahuarita community who offered us their time and shared with us how they encountered Christ through those they served.
The Good Shepherd UCC (a church pastored by Randy Mayer MDiv ‘94), where our group stayed throughout the week, is in Pima County, Arizona. This county is a popular destination for retirees. We met folks originally from the East Coast, many from the West Coast, and others from all over the United States. Later in life, they have all decided to make Sahuarita, Arizona, or the greater Tucson area, their home during retirement. I was energized by the enthusiasm and dedication of those who chose to spend their time in service of others. The retirees no longer work full-time, yet often volunteer more than 20 hours a week in their community.
On Monday, March 9th in the morning, the Green Valley-Sahuarita Samaritans (GVS) met at the Good Shepherd UCC. Green Valley-Sahuarita Samaritans is the local organizing and volunteer group committed to saving lives and relieving suffering in the Arizona borderlands. Many members of the church are part of GVS; the reach of the Samaritans is beyond one church or community. Our group from Andover Newton and Yale Divinity School observed the meeting and witnessed the dozens of volunteers present and engaged.
The Samaritans organize regular water drops and we participated in one on our final day in Arizona. Our group traded our rented vans for off-roading vehicles for half the day. We drove around backroads on public land, stopping several times over the course of a few hours. When we stopped, we usually walked a short distance to the site where water was tucked among trees or brush. A wooden box protected the water jugs from the elements. Alongside the water, black plastic bags were filled with blankets and some snacks.
The day we joined the water drop ended up being more of a water “check-up.” Most of the jugs were undisturbed and didn’t need replacing. But I saw the presence of Christ in the volunteers who came out into the desert making sure there was water for migrants if it was needed. 
The Advent season is about expectant waiting, similar to the water drops. The Samaritans expect migrants will come through the desert. We expect that Christ will come. Today we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. He has come in the form of a baby. I wonder, what ways can we each serve as the hands and feet of Christ in our local communities? How can we care for those who show us Christ’s presence in our midst? 
While we continue to stay-at-home during the pandemic, we might be able to find inspiration from the Green Valley-Sahuarita Samaritans and turn our attention to our own backyards. Your hands and your feet can be the blessing to the world you encounter, no plane ride or rental car required.
For an introduction to this weekly series, see the story on our News feed.