Someone early in the Christmas season posted on a neighborhood community board that they had fallen on hard times. There was a death, a job loss and a whole bunch of other circumstances that led to a sad situation. Facing eviction, utilities shut off... Selling every thing they had to make ends meet and still falling short.
The community rallied around, as communities should, and in the most unexpected way, unfolding in real-time the generosity of human-kind. Their rent was paid, the utilities - in increments - were paid and gifts were arranged for their daughter. There were some nay-sayers who thought there should not be handouts... A hand up was more like it... And a job offer in the end.
And out on the west coast is a family who has whethered the year minus one... An accident took the life of someone much loved on the eve of Chistmas. They have grieved and missed and mourned. They have honored family traditions and toasted to the beloved on special occasions and have never let the loss stray too far from their minds... Always always wishing the loss had never occurred.
Still, this evening is a widow or two that I hold close in my heart. A recent loss of a long time love only 12 days ago. We watch from our front window these last two weeks as family came by, as cars pull in the drive and pull out again, as the cars lined the street after the funeral last week. I read in the paper, just who he was... Mourning a little myself with how little we knew. A lump caught in my chest at the missed opportunities, the moments of time we let slip by for later or tomorrow.
The second widow is my very own grandmother who has maintained home and self for the last 10 years. She's not alone, her son and daughters make sure she has outings and twice daily phone calls. She has good days, she had bad days but all of them are somewhere in between lonely days.
Another family is on my heart... They are maintained in my personal constant prayer vigil. A sweet family who sits at a hospital bedside of their child. A child who is fighting a valiant battle against cancer, too many years now to be fair to anyone, least of all a child.
I think of another family and a baby, so long ago. This baby was born to a couple and the babe wasn't his... But born of the Spirit. His birth was promised and foretold "in the beginning". And hope lay wait for years and years; till the time appointed from above. A babe not born in a hospital but in a stable among animals and laid down in a feeding trough and wrapped not in a blue blanket but burial cloths. His baby shower gifts did not include rattles and pacifiers but instead gave clues to just how important this child would be. A baby born during a time of darkness and unrest when a king had order the annihilation of all babies in the land and much grieving was heard. His birth meant hope, His birth meant provision to our sin and separation, His birth meant ultimate love and grace.
It's far too easy in this season to get caught up in the act of Christmas. I beat myself up for the forgotten items on my to-do list. The batches of Christmas cookies which never got made and decorations which did not manage to make it out of the attic this year... And it all hit me, on the incline of an escalator yesterday. I looked at my list and checked it twice... How silly my fret and worry was... It's okay to acknowledge the undone parts of the season, those things don't really matter.
As the tears threatened to bubble up and and out, each day matters. Each moment and every heart. Each person you welcome in your door. The pulling of your Spirit to spend some time, to give a little of yourself, to fill a need when you see it, to speak with the woman across the street, to pick up the phone and ease moments of loneliness... To pray for a family who needs miracles and the goodness of mankind.
Christmas is a season meant for these moments that break your heart open wide and change the fabric of your being. To experience suffering, sadness, loneliness and loss; to be a part of the hope that only Christmas could bring... A baby born, sent from Heaven to pave the way. They called him Immanuel, God with us. Hope, promise, grace, love - a living sacrifice.
I know these next two days, as we gather I will sit and take it all in... The sights and sounds, the love and laughter. The comfort of home and harth... I will remember how blessed I am, how blessed we all are not just with the things and moments of the day but of the final hope and provision to all who truely believe.
Cherish these Christmas memories, look for ways to make a difference in the lives of others... Give thanks to God for His Son and provision He made.
Merry Christmas to all!