Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Just Carrying Christmas Down the Street

This morning I helped with the delivery of our church's Christmas baskets to needy families in our community. Our folks are abundantly generous and our benevolence team is the best. Usually our church adopts 10-15 families with a gift for each person in the family and a turkey with all the trimmings for Christmas dinner, but this year our team chose a different approach. We adopted six large families in our community, each one in the grip of harsh circumstances, and pulled out all the stops. Our people responded with an overflowing, overwhelming Christmas for each family. So, we were all very blessed and tickled to see the surprise and appreciation as we made our deliveries.

For my part, I loaded up my Honda and headed off to find a big green house not far from our church. The woman at the door had been called and was expecting me. I carried in the first of my six loads from the car and she thought I was done. I smiled and assured her there was much more to come. Her house was old and sparsely furnished, but neat and clean. A small Christmas tree had been decorated, but no presents were under the tree. She showed me the pictures on the wall of her three boys, her nephews, who she and her husband had taken in, rescuing them from a far worse fate. And, they have a little baby of their own. She said they had spent all they had on legal bills from the custody battle. There was no money left for any kind of Christmas.

As I put the boxes of food on the dining room table, she told me how the boys had told her and her husband that they didn't really need presents or Christmas this year. They just wanted a home with them, a safe place where they could be a family. "Santa can give our presents to other kids this year." She wiped the tears from her face as she talked.

I gave her a hug before I left. "Don't ever forget, God loves you and there really are people who care right down the street. We hope you have a wonderful Christmas." In just a moment her world had changed, touched by a simple act of love - love from people she has never met, from a church she has never attended, sent by a loving God who never ceases to amaze me. I have never heard these words from a more sincere heart: "Thank you so much. Thank everyone. Merry Christmas."

Please Leave Christmas Alone

Here's a link to Garrison Keillor's Christmas column in the Baltimore Sun. Always interesting and humorous, Keillor expresses some of my thoughts and feelings about Christmas as a distinctively Christian celebration. What do you think?


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Coming Home for Christmas

To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come.
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star.
To the things that cannot be and that are.
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.

         - G. K. Chesterton, "The House of Christmas"

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. - 2 Corinthians 8:9

Sunday, December 6, 2009

When God Was Down in the Dumps

Pastor and author Leith Anderson shared a powerful picture of the wonder and meaning of the Incarnation of Christ:

Several years ago I was visiting Manila and was taken, of all places, to the Manila garbage dump and saw something beyond belief. Tens of thousands of people make their homes on that dump site. They've constructed shacks out of the things other people have thrown away. And they send their children out early every morning to scavenge for food out of other people's garbage, so they can have family meals. People have been born and grown up there on the garbage dump. They have had their families, their children, their shacks, their garbage to eat, finished out their lives, and died there without ever going anywhere else, even in the city of Manila. It is an astonishing thing. 

But Americans also live on the garbage dump. They are missionaries, Christians who have chosen to leave their own country and communicate the love of Jesus Christ to people who otherwise would never hear it. That is amazing to me. People would leave what we have to go and live on a garbage dump. Amazing, but not as amazing as the journey from heaven to earth. 

The Son of God made that journey, and he knew what he was doing. He knew where he was going. He knew what the sacrifice would be. He journeyed from heaven to earth on a mission to save the human race.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Favorite Christmas Story

An aging Broadway actor had fallen on hard times, so desperate that the only work he could find was the role of Santa Clause at a local department store. He enjoyed the kids for the most part and took some solace in his hidden identity, certain he would never be recognized behind all the red velvet, white fur, and the false hair and beard.

Then one day, as he was working his way through a long line of children and parents, it happened. A beautiful, stately, well-dressed woman stepped forward with her grandson. As he lifted the little boy onto his lap, his grandmother smiled and the old actor's heart skipped a beat. He knew her in an instant, his former leading lady in countless performances on stage and screen. Turning away quickly, the actor felt his face flush with embarrassment as he turned toward the boy and tried to disguise his voice.

When the grandson finished with his Christmas wish list, the old actor set him down with a warm "Ho, Ho, Ho, and a Merry Christmas!" The woman reached for his gloved hand and took the list. "Just one thing to add, Santa." She turned aside, wrote some words, folded the list and handed it back. "Thank you so much, Santa. Merry Christmas."

The aged actor breathed a sigh of relief and stuffed the Christmas list inside his wide, black belt. Hours later, he finally finished his shift and as he unbuckled his heavy costume, the folded Christmas list fell on the floor. Picking it up, he unfolded the paper revealing five crisp $100 bills and these words: "Merry Christmas to the greatest actor I have ever known."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

In Search of Our Kneeling Places, by Ann Weems

In each heart lies a Bethlehem,
an inn where we must ultimately answer
whether there is room or not.
When we are Bethlehem-bound
we experience our own advent in his.
When we are Bethlehem-bound
we can no longer look the other way
conveniently not seeing stars,
not hearing angel voices.
We can no longer excuse ourselves by busily
tending our sheep or our kingdoms.
This Advent let's go to Bethlehem
and see this thing that the Lord has
made known to us.
In the midst of shopping sprees
let's ponder in our hearts the Gift of Gifts.
Through the tinsel
let's look for the gold of the Christmas Star.
In the excitement and confusion, in the merry chaos
let's listen for the brush of angels' wings.
This Advent, let's go to Bethlehem
and find our kneeling places.