The wise men brought expensive gifts. But, if you think about it, many people gave Jesus things that could not be purchased in a local bazaar. The innkeeper reluctantly gave the holy family shelter. The shepherds gave worship and then, their expertise in promotion and networking. There must have been others not mentioned in Scripture who gave practical help–swaddling cloth, food, protection and loving curiosity. Eventually, Joseph connected with his family in the area and probably someone gave him a job in his carpenter shop, so he and Mary could fulfill their religious and civic obligations.
We tend to look outside our borders at Christmas time to help folks in desperate straits overseas. That’s good, but let’s not forget those who are much closer:
- Our homeless population is growing at alarming rates.
- The stress of joblessness puts enormous pressure on family relationships. Many are bitter and angry in their loneliness.
- International students and refugee families, relocated in our communities.
- Single parents with their children. Older adults parenting their grandkids.
- The elderly who may have already outlived their family and friends.
Of course, no one can do it all. I’m not suggesting one more “straw” that might break your “camel’s back.” But can we stop long enough from our good works to see if God has something even better to include in our holiday activity? We may find that His very best opportunity to gift others outside our circles of family and obligation is close at hand and easily wrapped.
And, finally, let’s not overlook the opportunities we have now to gift our family with traditions that focus on Jesus and will last for generations to come. The crèche may be made of cardboard. Playing ‘baby Jesus’ may be assigned to our child’s favorite doll. Our holiday music may mix “Jingle Bells” with “Silent Night.” Cookie recipes may be family traditions or newly clipped from a magazine. Stockings hanging on the fireplace or propped up on the couch come filled with love in the shape of favorite little things and weighted down by fruit. The amazing role of the tree, tailor made to our family traditions. Christmas programs. Reading the story from the Gospels in all its simple, profound beauty.
Most of all, making this time of year what our loving Heavenly Father intends it to be…full of awe – and homespun stuff – that brings glory to God and peace to settle our complicated lives.
Nancy Tichy, KidZ At Heart International author