Like many, the holidays are a difficult time of year for me. A few years ago, my family spent our final Thanksgiving together and then, just before Christmas on December 13, my Dad lost his 5-year battle with pancreatic cancer. Truth be told, while Christmas carols and hymns proclaim “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men,” the harsh reality is that the season doesn’t place a pause on the hardships of the poor, the homeless, the sick, the orphan, the widows, the lonely, the unclothed, the hungry, the thirsty, the jobless, the war torn, and the needy. In this season of Advent or “Expectation,” will peering into the manger bring lasting peace or further reminders of regret, loss, disbelief, and discouragement?
It’s important that we catch the true meaning of Christmas by creating gospel moments by announcing the birth of Jesus to those around you—inviting them to join you at Christmas celebrations: in your homes and in your churches. It’s fine if Santa Claus and snowmen are present in your home as long as you exalt the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes laid in the manger. The birth of Christ is the gift of God to be celebrated.
I often reflect back to one of the most treasured Christmases that I cling to which was my last Christmas with Dad. My Dad and Mom found themselves in a hospitality apartment in Houston, Texas while my Dad received his cancer treatments. They were eleven hours away from our hometown at Christmas time and couldn’t return home because of his treatment schedule. My wife and I decided to take “Christmas” to them in Houston. We gathered a small nativity set, bought a small pre-lit tree, some Texas themed ornaments, special mugs, a Christmas wreath for the door, and made some other things to make their apartment a little more “Christmassy,” like home during the holidays. When we arrived, we brought our Christmas surprises inside and got it set up. We even put a couple of presents beneath that little tree. The small gesture meant the world to my parents. To anyone else they might have seen a “Charlie Brown” Christmas, but to us, Christ’s birth gave us hope and strength.
The following day, we planned a Christmas dinner for the other residents of that hospitality house. We cooked and cooked and fed so many cancer patients–too sick to travel home, alone for the holidays, and too poor to pay for Christmas dinner and their caretakers. It was a Christmas miracle! God took our little and multiplied it to meet so many needs that day. And he gave my Dad the strength and health to participate. We experienced the Spirit of Christmas through loving Christ and loving others. I even preached a Christmas message of hope and peace found in Jesus Christ to those able to gather in the clubhouse. That day, I was reminded that Christmas isn’t what is found in boxes beneath a tree, but the love of Jesus, the Savior. I will never forget that Christmas.
Seek to serve the less-fortunate during the Christmas season and display the love of the Savior to those who desperately need a reprieve from life’s striving.
God used the Birth of Jesus to make an eternal impact.
Do the same.
Jesus Follower. Husband. Father. Evangelist. PhD Evangelism @SWBTS. Woodturner. Cyclist. Cast-Iron Culinarian.