Another year is drawing to a close. There is hustling, bustling and honking of horns amidst the joyous preparations for the Christmas season. As I was out today, I watched people extend a little more kindness than usual as traffic merged to two lanes and then one on Don Mills. And as the traffic crawled, I watched the people walking by. Some wore big smiles as they went about their day and then there were others who seemed lost in the fog of all that is Christmas; and I can relate.
I remember being in the streets of Kolkata, India in 2009. I experienced all at once, great joy and then deep sadness as I journeyed from some of the deepest material poverty in the world in to the clash, bang of blazing Christmas lights and blaring Christmas songs being played too loudly over the PA system…it began a time of wondering when things changed so much and we seemingly got it all wrong.
"Don't they know there are people in the world who have NOTHING? People who really do live on the streets and not caught in the safety of social services nets..."
I was outraged and this marked the very first Christmas where there was less bling and more simplicity, a lessening of hustle and bustle marked with the appearance of deeper gratitude for what I, we as a family had been given.
…and then came 2015, the year my daughter died, leaving behind four children ages 11, 7, 5 and 1 day old.
Christmas 2015 was truly a Christmas like no other – How do you “do Christmas” for the kids and bring some sense of normalcy, while grieving one of the greatest losses of your life? Decorations went up because they were supposed to; cards were sent because they should be; Christmas music went on because that was what people expected…wasn’t it? Gifts piled up under the tree in a massive mountain as people did not know what to do to help…how do you care for 4 orphaned babies at Christmas? You give them stuff…and within the outer wrapping of my earthly shell, my heart broke just a little more at the excess of it all and where we had gone so wrong.
"Don't they know there are children in the world who have nothing?"
In the journey from 2015 – 2016, I encountered many people who had little or nothing of material value. I met people who were in a crowd and yet desperately alone. I have experienced great personal loss and walked with others in similar situations. I have sat at bedsides holding the hand of the sick and the dying and I have been on my balcony with my cup of coffee gazing across our city wondering how Christmas 2016 could be, should be, different – asking God what am I missing?
Well it is Christmas time…Again, and I think I have learned something perhaps obvious in the midst of this 7-year journey. If people are not aware that there is much need in the world and that we can make a difference, then I (yes I!!!) have a responsibility to help people peel back the layers so they too can see – not everyone is happy at Christmas time; for some it is the hardest, loneliest time of the year. He has shown me His heart for the lost, the weary, the broken hearted, the lonely, the sick, the dying, the needy…He has whispered in my heart:
"Joy, whatever your heart has felt, whatever burden you have for my people, whatever is being done in My Name but apart from Me, over these I have grieved and wept...But remember, I am the One who gave you your heart for people and I am inviting you to join me in the pages of My Story..."
My heart is no longer grieving the excess of the Christmas season, but rather finding practical ways to live out my faith everyday and with His guidance turn it into something positive. There is a new bounce in my step; a deeper sense of who God is and His faithfulness in the journey as He has taught me much between India and now. I have been more intentional with my grand babies about the true meaning of Christmas and taking the excess and sharing with those who are without. We have baked dozens of cookies that we are taking with us to people we know are alone and we keep some in the car so we can share a little of His love with the people we meet each day…and I am present with those who need me to be.
The greatest gift we have to give is ourselves and our time. For those of us who know Jesus intimately, it becomes the outworking of our faith in the here and now.
It’s Christmas Time…Again, and may you receive less presents and receive more Presence.
Isaiah 9:2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. Matthew 1:23 "The virgin will conceived and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" (which means "God with us")