Years later the memory of this Christmas led my friend to want more than ever give gifts to children who had little or nothing on Christmas morning. What must it feel like to wake up, know that it is Christmas and while all the other children in your neighborhood are opening grand gifts, you have nothing except dust under your tree? Perhaps even, there isn’t a tree, but an empty space where in your mind a beautifully decorated tree might have stood. I can’t imagine that kind of pain or sadness. Do the memories of their emptiness haunt them forever? Does that kind of brokenness ever heal?
There are other kinds of brokenness, as well. Only last week a friend went to the funeral of a young girl not long out of high school who was killed in a tragic car accident; or, the family who lost a loved one to cancer recently and must face the holidays without their father. What about the family whose sole provider just lost his job, or the family whose house burned down only weeks ago? What of the parents who celebrate this Christmas alone because their child has chosen to take another road, turning his back on all that he knew and once loved; or of the family where children are being destroyed while Mom and Dad battle in the courtroom during divorce settlement? This makes Christmas a sad time rather than a time of joy. How does a person handle that kind of pain?
There is much pain and suffering in our world, whether we choose to recognize it or not. Those experiencing grief may be close to us, or only in our peripheral vision, but they are there. And when pain is crippling relationships and breaking our hearts it’s hard to experience the joy of Christmas.
I challenge you this week, as Christmas day creeps ever closer to choose to see the brokenness in those around you who try with all their might to not let you see the pain they are experiencing. You needn’t know the problem, only recognize a need and do what you can to ease their burden. Be creative. Offer a meal, a ride somewhere; a gift of kindness in any form. Leave gifts on the porch for the little ones (and even the older ones if you can), invite them to dinner, offer them a cup of coffee and a listening ear, take a box of cookies, or homemade bread. My point is this: give your heart and you’ll receive a blessing. It needn’t be a grand gift, --and you might even want to give anonymously-- but if you give with your heart, it will be cherished. It’s Christmas, the season of giving.