by Marty Rind
Christmas is upon us!! For some this is the best time of the year. Turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, etc. (Are you hungry yet?) Not to mention precious time with family and friends with laughter and storytelling. For most people, myself included, this is the most wonderful time of the year. I love Christmas and, if I’m being honest, am really excited this year because I miss my family and friends back home. I haven’t seen them much since moving out here. Christmas time serves as a great time to catch up and enjoy that time that we have lost and to share stories of how our lives have gone in the time past.
I have a lot of good memories of this time of year, such as getting presents Christmas morning, stuffing my face with good food, sledding with friends, and throwing snowballs at my mom while she angrily chases me and my brother through the yard. Ah, youth. Unfortunately, this is not the case for everyone. The holidays can be a cold reminder of lost family members, broken families, and all the things that people don’t have. Growing up, there was a woman named Mary Ann who lived down the street from us. She used to work with my dad at the courthouse, but had retired. She was a marvelous woman, even though her license plate was “Witch 5”. My brother and I helped her with her yard work in the summer and fall because she could use it and we got paid. She was always the first to crack a joke or give us a hard time just because she cared about us. She was a fun person to be around. What you probably could not tell about Mary Ann, though, was that she didn’t have a family. All of her relatives had passed away, the last being her sister around 5 years ago now. She was lonely and every time the holidays would come around, my mom insisted on doing something for her, whether it was inviting her over or taking her some food.
My point is that it’s easy to focus on ourselves and all the busyness of the holiday season and forget about those that don’t have such luxuries. We forget that we are to be Christians in the busyness and not just when it’s convenient. Don’t get me wrong, it’s by no means a sin to celebrate with family and friends during this time. It’s what the holidays are there for, but we shouldn’t forget, that when we are wanting to take the last piece of apple pie or the last piece of turkey or ham at Christmas dinner or wanting to open up the first present Christmas morning, or just want to get home from all the shopping and someone inconveniences us, that Jesus came not to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for the world. Luke 2:10 says, “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.’” I’ve heard this verse more times than I care to admit, but I still feel like I need that reminder each and every year. Christmas does not exist to make us busier, more stressed, and feel like we’ve lost our minds trying to plan for everything. Christmas exists for the sole purpose to have joy and peace on earth. Yes, this is specifically talking about Jesus coming down to the earth to save humanity, and nothing in my life gives me more joy than Jesus and his sacrifice for me and you. However, I wonder if this verse is not also an invitation for us to cause joy in the lives of others.
One of my favorite memories of Christmas time isn’t even one of opening presents, eating amazing food, or spending time with family. My family was driving home from the Christmas Eve service at church. It was a cool, clear night, stars shining above, with a few inches of snow on the ground. It was a picture straight out of a Norman Rockwell calendar. When we got home, there was a car in our ditch, stuck in the snow. It was a man with his baby child (I forget if it was a son or daughter) in the backseat fully asleep. Without hesitation, my dad stepped into action. We got out of the car and dad went straight for the snow shovel and sent my brother to get some cat litter, to help gain traction in the snow. It took a little bit and some work, but we were able to get his car unstuck and sent on his way. When all was done and we got back inside, what my dad said has stuck with me to this day, and hopefully forever, because it’s the essence of Christianity and Christmas. He told us that as helping people in need is what Christmas is all about. My dad understood and taught my brother and me that the holidays, with all the fun and joy that they bring, are not only about the joy, but also about spreading that joy and the love of Jesus to other people.
This Christmas season, I ask you to be Jesus to the people who may not be having the best time, who are struggling through the hard times life throws at us. Some may be celebrating Christmas for the first time without a loved one, or the first Christmas without a job, or are simply just too stressed out because of all of the expectations that this particular time of year brings. Take the time to help those people, encourage them, and show the love of God to the hurting instead of trying to make everything perfect for your own family. Take the opportunity to sacrifice perfection in your life to make someone else’s Christmas more memorable.
And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. – Luke 1:46-48