The joy of Christmas is that it is meant to be shared. Through years of tradition, we celebrate the “gift of God’s Son to the earth” through gift giving. But there are many ways to share this happiness besides through the exchange of presents and gifts. In fact, most of today’s practices are self-centered starting with the making of lists for a generous benefactor known as Saint Nicholas.
Our secular culture has pivoted from a Holy holiday in celebration of the birth of Christ our Savior and Redeemer to a festive giving and receiving of gifts for ourselves and others. If we don’t like what we get, we exchange it for something we do like, blowing off the giver’s generosity and forethought.
Through centuries of change and to the forgetting of God, people are slowly transforming our once Holy and spiritual rejoicing into one of indulgence, over spending and indebtedness. Instead of joy we are sated with exhaustion and bills; far cries from joy and praise for our newborn King.
Some have managed to save and revere His Holy presence in spite of the commercialization. Many are finding gladness and purpose by serving in local “soup kitchens” and pantries or through donations of gifts and toys to the needy.
But as one local family, on the receiving end, lamented “We are surrounded with gifts and food during the Christmas Season, but the rest of the year we really struggle!”
Perhaps extending your well-placed joy into the New Year would make your efforts more lasting and meaningful. Everyone wants to give when the spirit touches them, but thoughtfulness and giving throughout the year could make a real difference in someone’s life.
Shut-ins receive visits and gifts during December; but the other 365 days, they may spend a lot of lonely hours when the phone doesn’t ring or visitors are few and far between. Commitment and remembrances could warm these empty days and months and remind those who weep that they are loved and needed. Even those we don’t know can benefit from a hug or an extended hand when it is least expected.
One year our family had a child from a local boy’s home share two weeks of the Christmas Season with us. The home was closing for the holidays and needed places for these boys to go. We enjoyed his time with us, but I felt guilty when he left, and wondered if there was something more we could do? I had four children younger than he, one of them a newborn, and the timing wasn’t right for us. There is more need in this world than any of us can stop alone or together.
Our oldest son painted someone’s house as an Eagle Scout project with his fellow scouts. The mother had recently been in an accident, and the family was greatly in need. Their project was a welcome treat for the family, even though it didn’t come at Christmas time. Imagine what this kind of giving could mean as a Christmas gift; better yet that it came as a surprise when it was most needed.
We often invited widows and widowers into our home, not only on special occasions, but during the holidays. Not able to cook for themselves, these invitations meant a great deal to alleviate their loneliness. A short ride to see Christmas lights and decorations on the way home was a special delight.
We also used to take widows out to lunch or dinner with us. It was a special treat for them to get out and mingle. They especially loved holding on to my husband’s arm and the feeling of being escorted by a man. I used to place them in the front seat of our car, while I slipped into the back just so they could feel special for that one day. Sometimes we’d go on an excursion and take them to places they hadn’t been in a long, long while.
It is also important not only to be a gracious giver, but a gracious receiver. Some of these elderly sweethearts wanted to reciprocate because the attention meant so much to them. Declining on our part seemed that we looked on our gift as “charity.” When we allowed them to give in return, you could see by the gleam in their eyes that this was as important to them as our gift had been.
Many days, we returned home with a fresh baked loaf of bread, some cookies, a special treasure from their home in remembrance of time spent in our company. Some of these widows are gone now, but the memories linger on. In hind sight, they still warm our hearts today.
Going beyond and engaging in the unusual or unexpected can create the kind of Christmas that goes on forever in the minds and souls of the people you surprise. Who knows, perhaps you’re entertaining angels unawares?