We spend an awful lot of time doing two things at Christmas time in the United States: catering to five year old children, and hawking large luxury items that most of us don’t actually need. What we don’t do is spend much time on loving each other as Jesus Christ would have us do. He didn’t just hint at it, but he put it in the operating manual for the human race, and made sure that his disciples passed it along for all of us to have in written form. We call it the Bible.
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Part of where we’ve veered off the course is in our focus on the pretty, the cute, the adorable. That leaves the stoic, the worn, the vulnerable, and the elderly out of the equation. Oh, we’re all good with Santa being a senior citizen, and grandma is handy for the punch-line of stories when she’s not baking cookies. But do we really take that message of Jesus and work on it this time of year? Or, for that matter, is this the only time of year we kind-of-try-harder to follow him, but still miss the mark?
This Christmas I’d like to ask you to take up my challenge: love someone who isn’t little and cute. Love that grandparent who has nobody living nearby. It doesn’t have to be your grandmother, but what about the older woman down the block? Invite a lonely friend over for dinner on Christmas. Make a date to feed the homeless in February – everyone does it on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but what about Valentines day?
Perhaps you know someone who’s suffering from a tragedy in their life. The loss of an unborn child, the death of a close friend, a pet that has left them too soon. I might add your coworker who’d suffering from depression, or the teenager who used to baby-sit for you that is longing to be accepted and loved, or who has seen a classmate lost in a traffic accident. Instead of heading out with your fraternity brothers to have a cocktail on Thursday, what if you invited this person noted above to have a cup of coffee? Perhaps bake them those Christmas cookies you love so much, and deliver them with a note of appreciation and love for all they have done for you over the years? Maybe, just maybe, Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe it means a little bit more. (Dr. Suess, I stole that from you.)
The point of this missive is simple: there are a lot of people in need and hurting this time of year. The joy and frivolity they see around them sometimes deepens the depression and darkness they experience. You can be that ray of light that brings hope and joy to them.
I am doing this today because one year ago I had a gentle talk with someone who fit the bill I’ve described. Their life was pretty grim. Sadness had overtaken them in ways you cannot imagine. So at a Christmas party where I was appearing as Santa, I spent a few minutes just talking to them about this tragedy they were experiencing, and how while it seemed the end of the earth, it would pass into time. Good memories of the person they’d lost would eventually take the place of the grim images that filled their personal vision. I gave a message of hope, largely based on having overcome some loss in my own life these many years.
This past weekend I was at that annual party, and handed out the gifts as I always do. In the bundle I was to distribute there was a small envelope marked “For Santa.” I put it in my bag and didn’t open it on the spot, thinking it was my payment for the event. It was better than payment. It was a note of thanks for that small chat a year before. A chat that had provided solace and a glimmer of light to someone who was pretty sure all the light had gone out of the world that week.
You can be that light. All you have to do is be kind. Be outgoing toward one who is in need. Go outside your own shell just a bit. It’s really quite simple: simply reflect the light that Christ provides through the mirror of your love.
I’ll talk to you next week. Remember to drop by on Friday for more Christmas tunes.
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