I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. John 15:11
This Christmas season, I’ve seen something I’ve never before witnessed. Doesn’t mean it hasn’t been there before, but it’s the first time I’ve seen it: People not enjoying Christmas. I’m not speaking of people who’ve suffered loss of some sort; I’m thinking of people who just don’t seem to be able to access the joy that’s come to the world.
I’m part of at least two different communities. In one I’ve learned that a handful of people have withdrawn from times of sharing and prefer to carry on as if this is not a wonderful time of celebration and remembrance. With the assistance of some Christmas elves, we’ve made certain that everyone knows that he or she in that community is loved and cared for. Lest you think there are Scrooges amongst them, none of these folks is financially stressed. Something else precludes their celebration.
The other group of which I’m a part does have a Grinch (or maybe two). Will that temper my reaching out in love? Why should it, as long as I’m gentle, sensitive, and thoughtful? We can give without loving, but we can’t love without giving. And that doesn’t just mean material items.
Just look at Jesus’ gift catalog:
• At a wedding where he was a guest, his mother pointed out the need for wine. To avoid shaming the family, Jesus provided a sommelier’s dream, the best wine anyone had ever tasted. Jesus gave happiness and honor to the family.
• In an encounter with an outcast woman at an obscure well, Jesus probed deep enough to find her heart’s longing. He gave her forgiveness and respect.
• At Bethesda Pool Jesus touched a lame man and gave him healing and a new life.
• In other instances, Jesus brought a son back to life and returned him to his mother; he gave an adulteress a second chance and offered her forgiveness; he caused a blind man to see and gave him a Savior; he fed people who had no access to food, meeting their physical and spiritual needs; he forgave his fearful and faithless disciples and gave them eternity. And he gave us himself.
• Jesus gave because of love, and he continues to give us everything we need “for life and godliness.” And have you noticed that all of his gifts have come from his heart?
There are gifts that each of us has that don’t cost a penny. They may require time and creativity, but they are vehicles for us to express Christ’s love and the true “reason for the season.” No need for humbugs—if we know Jesus. He gave us the greatest gift and brought joy to the world.
Father, cause us to initiate an explosion of love and joy this year as we celebrate your Son’s glorious Advent. AMEN.