It's been a different Christmas. Quite in keeping with the ruminations of my mind these past months, I suppose.
I'm not exactly sure what caused it to be different.
It's not the first time I haven't been around family for Christmas, although I've only missed about 3.
And it wasn't the first time I've been to a midnight Christmas Eve service (although I've only done a couple in my life).
And it's not the first time I was able to be out bringing people on the street some Christmas cheer.
It might have been the first time there were no colorful presents under my Christmas tree, but that kind of fits with the aforementioned ruminations, and wasn't a negative thing.
I think this Christmas has been more true to the heart of Christmas.
It may have started with taking time to think about Advent, the time of waiting and yearning. Thinking a bit more intentionally about what Christ's coming means.
Or maybe it started a couple months earlier when I did what little Christmas shopping I did do, so that I could bring stuff back to my family in Alberta when I went there in September (instead of mailing it in December). I really didn't spend a lot, although I tried to find gifts that had some kind of meaning. This took my mind off of shopping during December. Oh, I wandered through the malls a bit, but not with the harried look of a hapless shopper. So, subconsciously, I joined the Advent Conspiracy, or something along the same lines.
For several weeks we knew that our regular Friday night CARTS ministry would coincide with Christmas Day, so our planning took that into account. We wanted to make this week special, so extra treats were planned. A couple churches and a local ministry provided over 150 Christmas stockings to give out (filled with useful items, as well as some candy—which is useful in its own right). So, my thoughts for Christmas Day have been focused for several weeks on how we would serve, not on turkey, presents, or a party.
My personal life journey into caring about the street community has been growing for the past four years, so in some ways this Christmas has four year old roots.
The end result of these various threads has been:
--an intentional moving away from spending much money on gifts for people that are already blessed (not that they aren't loved, just that money went elsewhere).
--more time spent contemplating some of the deeper heart of the Christmas story.
--attending several church services that helped these meditations.
--being more present in some of the communities I am able to share in. Gaining more understanding of where the kingdom Jesus came to bring is intertwined with everyday life. Giving my time, attention, and assistance to some practical projects. Not because it is Christmas, but because it is right.
--being able to be a part of an awesome outpouring of love and generosity Christmas night to the 150 or so street people we were able to connect with. Realizing again how much fun it can be to give yourself as a gift (along with 35 other people who are doing the same thing).
--having several opportunities to hear people's stories. Some filled with pain, some with joy.
--enjoying a number of awesome friendships. Time spent together, ideas exchanged, passions shared, coffee ingested.
--Christmas has been so much more than just one day, even more than just one season. It has been both much more and much less than a couple warm moments in a cold, dark month. Because the spirit of the season is more entrenched in my spirit than ever, it was around before December, and will still be around when the decorations are packed away for another year.
-The people I love will still be around to share conversation with after Christmas.
-The people I can bless with a smile, a word, or some food will still need me after Christmas.
-The people who have something to teach me will still be talking after Christmas.
-The people who can learn from me will still be watching me after Christmas.
So, Christmas isn't really anything special, or at least shouldn't be. The love of Jesus is just as inspiring and unbelievable in March or October. Our response to that love is just as beneficial to others in the summer as it is in the winter. You can give something to a special friend any day, not just on Christmas Day.
If your understanding of the universe and the kingdom of God grew this Christmas, you don't need to let it slide back to its former level now that Christmas is past. If the fire is burning a little brighter, keep throwing on the wood. If you caught a new glimpse of where you fit in this crazy world, clean your glasses and look for even more insight.