I love Christmas, it has always been such a magical time of the year for me. I grew up in a loving home but money was always scarce. In my home as a child, treats were saved for special occasions, particularly Christmas, with masses of food, drink and a pillowcase stuffed with goodies at the end of my bed. Oh how I looked forward to Christmas with the tree, the lights, the carols and the turkey - so magical and thrilling to my young mind.
Heather and I always emulated all the fond memories with our children, festivities and food traditions, (i.e. you must have bread sauce!). This year will be no exception as we all gather together on Christmas day to pull crackers, eat far too much food and open presents. What a joy, what generosity given and kindness shown but I must be honest and say I find it hard sometimes as a Christian when surrounded with so much need around me to know exactly how to respond.
I am reminded of an old German legend of a shop keeper who had a vivid dream that Jesus was going to visit his home that Christmas day. He cleaned the house, set garlands, candles and lit a fire. He ordered the finest of food and had it all ready and prepared for this most important of guests. At mid-morning the doorbell rang and he sprang from his seat to find a shabby beggar asking for bread. Moved by this poor man’s plight he took the very best off his table and wrapped it in the tablecloth and gave it to the man. The day wore on and another visitor rang the bell. This time an elderly women in a black shawl stood shivering at his door so he invited her in, sat her by the fire and cooked a steaming bowl of soup. No sooner had she left, than the final visitor came. Not Jesus but a child crying lost and searching for home. The man put on his coat, wrapped the child in his arms, and set out to face the freezing snow in search of the child’s home. Returning later to his house he realised it was nearly midnight and he fell on his knees and prayed “Jesus I wanted so much to see your face this day, why did you not call on me.” A gentle voice replied “three times today my shadow crossed your floor and you welcomed me, I was the beggar and you fed me, the woman and you welcomed me, the child and you cared for me.”
Contained within this sweet story is a wonderful truth and challenge. With all the receiving we experience this Christmas, let us remember it is more blessed to give than receive. Here is my challenge; take time out to walk to your neighbour’s house with a gift to bless them, invite them in for a meal or mulled wine. Walk the streets of your town and find the lonely, the rough sleeper and talk to them, buy them some hot food. See if you can visit the elderly, the prisoner, the shut in and take with you a gift that puts a smile on their faces.
Heather and I wish you all a very blessed Christmas.