It's Christmas time. The city twinkles festively. Stores are decorated extravagantly with caricatures from childhood cartoon favorites. Lights illuminate goods that simply cannot be lived without. Crowds amass in mall and on sidewalk alike. The cold has driven many to don scarf, mitten, hood and boot. Small eyes twinkle. Rosy cheeks and ruddy faces brave arctic air masses in search of food, sights, and shopping. Evergreens resplendent in bulbs and lights are everywhere. Angels adorn buildings both commercial and holy. Even the traffic seem to answer the yule call as braking automobiles create rivers of illuminate red heralded by the rotational patterns of corner stop lights.
It's Christmas time. His eyes burn red with tears long spent. Where joy should be welling from within, he feels nothing but the weight of a heavy and worn heart. Long ago he burned through the emotions of envy, anger, and pride. Now, only emptiness remains. Unemployment has been hard. With young children and debt accrued, his bride and he have done everything they know to get on their feet, to offset the financial tidal wave crashing down on them in the last year. But it was not enough. Sickness came and with it, additional expense from already depleted resources. Now, during the holidays, he watches as other families hurried from store to store. He witnesses others enjoying festivities that he knows he can't provide for his children.
He knows the season is about far more than gifts and trinkets, it is about a baby in a manger. And yet, he knows that on that morning his dread at not being able provide those few items his children wished for, those few small gifts that didn't even cost that much, will overwhelm his joy. He has failed his family, failed his bride. They couldn't even make cookies or treats. Eyes begin to burn again as his throat knots in the knowledge that he is powerless to become the hero he so longs to be at Christmas.
It's Christmas time. She is tired. Tired of the lewd remarks. Tired of the eyes that follow her back and forth from the counter. She is tired of having to work so much to make ends meet. A single mother of four with no support from the father. She loves her children, but honestly there are days she wishes she could just run away from it all. Her mother helps with childcare while she holds down her jobs. She is attractive but burning the candle at all ends is taking its toll. Permanent lines are prematurely etching around her tired young eyes. She does her best to bring holiday cheer to the kids, but when there seems no light at the end of the tunnel, it's difficult to be the light in your own home.
High school friends have long since either gone on to their own families or left for college and lives of their own. She is still here, working a factory by day, waitressing at night, and cleaning on the weekends. Her dreams and hopes are a distant memory, like a good novel once read and then put away. Reality of life now enforces her daily existence. She had hoped the holidays would lift her spirits, but in fact she now feels more alone, more isolated than ever...and tired, so very tired. If it weren't for the love of her children, it would be so easy to just not exist...
It's Christmas time. That's what they told him. He doesn't really know what day it is most of the time. Sundays. He can sometimes keep track of Sundays. That's when the liquor stores won't open early. He tries to make sure he has what's needed to avoid that dilemma. Christmas? Just another day. A lot of pretty lights though. He likes the lights - just wished they gave off some warmth. It's always cold at Christmas and the shelters don't always have beds.
He remembered one of the best Christmases was when that one church, what was it called...? Anyway, that one church came and brought the Christmas meal with the ham and the turkey and the stuffing and the coffee and pie. They even gave out coats and gloves! That was a Christmas - reminded him of being a kid. He remembered that night sitting on the park bench with his bottle warming his insides as he looked at the beautiful lights on top another nearby steeple. The steeple church was always pretty but he never really felt comfortable near it. Too many suits. People always looked away from you there. Pretty much invisible when you walked by. For all of that pretty stone, glass, and lights, seemed a real waste for the people not to be beautiful on the inside too.
It's Christmas time. Most of us will daily enter a home filled with warmth, love, and holiday décor. For some, we have the joy of watching the anticipation of children build daily as the holiday approaches. For others, loved ones will gather with us to celebrate the most grand gift ever given in all of creation. For some, however, this is not a holiday of joy, of cheer or goodwill as so many of our carols and hymns denote. It is a holiday that underscores loss, bareness, and devastation. While a world celebrates, a quiet few mourn.
It is in this ruin that those who profess Christ have a calling to reach into forlornness with a message of love and hope just as the angels did two millennia ago
I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
There will be people specifically and purposefully placed to intersect with your perfect noel this season. They may be people who have a smile but are silently counting the days until December 26th, hoping to move past this time. Should they be difficult to recognize, it is only right that we seek discernment to find them because it is for this reason that a baby was born. It is for this reason that a son was given. To bring hope and love.
Hope in Word. Love in action. Only these can heal a Christmas desolation. It is our calling, no more so than now. This is truly what the gift is all about.