Nativity_tree2011Christmas for most people is a festive time filled with family, friends and laughter. I remember the excitement as a child of driving around with my parents to look at the bright lights decorating homes. I recall the family gatherings where both the spirit and the belly were well-nourished. Watching Charlie Brown and Rudolf and Frosty and It’s a Wonderful Life were also a part of the Christmas tradition growing up. The music, the stories, and the people all come together to make wonderful memories of Christmases past.

As an adult I am anticipating our children being near, visits with extended family, and the smiles as gifts are exchanged and Christmas treats are consumed. Even though I try to avoid getting into the whole Christmas music thing too early, the last two weeks leading up to Christmas I tend to gorge myself on “O Holy Night” and “Go Tell It on the Mountain.” These are the traditions that have become part of my Christmas celebration.

Christmas is indeed a wonderful time of year filled with both secular and religious traditions, but it is not so wonderful for everyone. You and I know people who will go through their first Christmas without a loved one who passed away at some time during the year. In fact, even if that husband, wife, parent, child, brother or sister passed away years back, their absence during the holiday season is felt acutely. There are also military families who will celebrate the Christmas season apart from those they love. Among your friends and neighbors, some will go through Christmas suffering from cancer or some other serious ailment. There are many among us who will not have the material means to give gifts or to provide a Christmas feast. Others will have a deep sense of loneliness as they long to have a companion to share their lives.

I am not trying to put a damper on your celebration. There are ample reasons to rejoice for God intervened to send His Son to us to be our Savior. In the midst of our celebration, however, let us take time to remember others and to respond to their needs. It could be a simple phone call or visit that is needed. Perhaps you know someone who could use a word of encouragement or even an invitation to come to dinner at your home. If you have been blessed materially, you can be a blessing to a child or family either indirectly through a local charity or directly through the giving of a thoughtful gift. A simple gesture of tipping more than you would normally or calling the grocery store checker by her name or smiling and wishing others a “Merry Christmas” can bring a ray of sunshine into someone’s otherwise gloomy day. The key is being aware of the needs and be willing to meet that need as you are able.

It was because of our greatest need that God sent His Son to us. Christmas is about more than simply peace on earth. The peace that Jesus brings is peace with God. We who are hopelessly stained with sin can find forgiveness and cleansing through faith in Jesus Christ. If God so loved us that He gave us His Son, should not our love lead us to give to others in His name?

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