December 11, 2013

Celebrating Christmas

At Christmastime most of us spend a lot of money giving gifts to each other. We buy watches, jewelry, game consoles, clothing, food, movies, tablets, computers, and socks. Shout out to all y'all who got socks for Christmas. I've been there. Some of us also make our own gifts for Christmas, which is pretty cool. Jon got into growing and making gifts for his family and friends. We give gifts, homemade or store-bought, to celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth in Bethlehem. We celebrate his birth as the greatest gift ever given, and we give our own gifts in memory of him.

How we celebrate Christmas says a lot about how we view Jesus. If we celebrate by singing songs of worship, it reflects that we believe him to be divine. If we celebrate by spending time reconnecting with family and friends, it may be that his life speaks to us of reconciliation. And if we celebrate by giving gifts, we may well be participating in his life by passing on the generosity and love that characterized his time on Earth. The stories preserved in the gospels of his birth, his family, his life, death, and resurrection are all rich to draw inspiration from. They are challenging and they are hopeful, and hopefully, they leave us different, more aware and active than before we heard them.

There is a tradition, a very old one, that is gaining more popularity lately, and which I'd like to highlight this Christmas. People are celebrating the birth of Christ by giving gifts. But instead of giving to people who love them, some folks are giving gifts to people they don't know very well, if at all. They are giving gifts to people because God loves those strangers, and that is worth celebrating. Organizations like Heifer and Compassion International are helping such-minded givers to celebrate by giving a cow or a goat or rice or fresh water to a family in another part of the world. How cool is that?

I imagine the Son of God looking at the celebrations taking place across the world this month, all in his name, all to his honor, and I wonder what he thinks of it all. The hymns ringing out in the church halls. The candy canes hanging on the tree. The hams and yams and eggnog. I picture him staring, somewhat interested, somewhat bored, at the gifts we give each other as a remembrance of him. It's good to give gifts to each other, and we should express that love. And yet...

Perhaps as he's staring at our celebrations, he quietly says, just to himself, "If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same." 

And then someone gives a gift, not to a friend or loved one, but to a stranger, or a foreigner, or any person who he has no business giving a gift to, and I imagine the corner of Jesus' mouth rise, just a bit, in a knowing grin. And he remembers another line of his own preaching: "But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High..." And his grin turns into a smile, because he knows now, for certain, that he is remembered. What better way to give a gift to Jesus than by giving a gift to those for whom he has such special affection.

For those of you that love our neighbors on the streets of Tampa, please consider giving to support our friendship with them. It's a costly friendship to maintain, but we think it's worth it. In January we will begin some major changes to our facility, and we could use the help. We will expand within the building to provide more space for people to be at home so that they can come in off the streets for a while. We will need to build a new bathroom, showers, and laundry machines. We will have to relocate our free market and set it up better than before. In addition to the construction work to be done we are also planning to open a computer lab. It will all be an additional expense that we frankly cannot afford. But we're moving forward by faith in the Giver of all good things.

Subtle hint: Home Depot or Best Buy gift cards. See?

click to give :)

PO Box 75157
Tampa, FL 33675

Happy holy days, everyone.

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