My family never does much for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day was always the day where the presents and the family dinner happened. So one Christmas Eve, a good friend of mine suggested that we go pass out food and gifts to the local homeless community. So we went to the store and stocked up on things to give out. We rode around in his truck for a couple of hours, parking here and there, to walk around, passing out things as we found people. It felt great to be giving, but there was a heaviness as well, to see people in such a state at Christmas, we don’t really like to be reminded of this reality. We ended up at Denny’s once we were done, one of the only places open that late on a Christmas eve, and the heaviness was there too. Shouldn’t all these people be at a home some where, with family? Why are there so many people at Denny’s on Christmas Eve?
But as I thought back to the people we met on the street and looked around at the people I was “sharing” Christmas Eve with and looked accross the table to my friend who didn’t actually have a family close by to spend Christmas with either, the heaviness started to melt away and my heart filled. It is actually a privilege sometimes to have your bubble burst, to share a human experience that may not be the norm or the celebrated kind. When we enter into the stories of others who are suffering, we become truly human and stop trying to pretend everything is ok, we grow to understand and accept that life is not fair and we, hopefully, turn to God to help us with that painful reality until things are made right again.
This is what love is, not just sharing the good stuff, but sharing the suffering as well. This is what God does for us when he comes down as a human, a baby even. He entered into our human suffering. He did not ask us to endure what he could not and he does not ask us to do it alone.
Emmanuel, God with us.
That Christmas Eve is still one of my favorite Christmas memories. There was nothing idilic about it, no traditional christmas fanfare. Just two people entering into the lonely reality of so many others and trying to brighten it up a little. A small glimpse, perhaps, of what God did for us on a much grander scale.
And it dawns of me now even that this is what I have tried devoted to my life too. I have left the safe(er) reality of my former life and willingly exposed myself to some of the most heartbreaking things I have ever seen, in an attempt to bring light to it. And its crazy hard, and most days I don’t even feel particularly good at it, but I am grateful to be a part of this life. And I am grateful to have God with me through it. A God that fully understands pain, heartbreak, and vulnerability, who entered into our world, showed us how to love, and then sacrificed himself for us. That is a great love, and that is what I have been thinking about over this last week of Advent and on this Christmas day.
Thank you for your great love, Jesus. My we be bearers of this love as we continue to try and shine your light in this dark world. Merry Christmas!
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon[d] his shoulder,
and his name shall be called[e]
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.