This quote from Dr. Albert Schweitzer summarizes well one of the main purposes of what our lives should be. We should serve others. We need to be there to take the time to listen to people’s lives with caring hearts. We should be willing to do all we can to help those who need us. In the crass commercialism of Christmas this important message can be so easily lost. Sadly, Christmas in some lives means what you can get from others as opposed to what you can give. You have a golden opportunity by the way you live your life to be a shining example of how Christmas is not about getting the latest Smart Phone, Ipad, Big Screen TV or laptop computer. What it should be about is giving the gift that is free requiring no wrapping or bows, unless you choose to present yourself that way – ourselves.
Christmas means much more to me than the giving of gifts. It’s the time I reflect upon the greatest gift that God offers me, and all who would ask for it. It’s the gift of Immanuel, meaning God with us. It’s the best gift I could ever be offered in the form of a baby born in a lowly manger in Bethlehem, who grew up to be the saviour of the world. Isn’t that an awesome thing? He was willing to give up His physical life through His blood shed for all our sins on the cross at Calvary. The prophet Isaiah in referring to the tremendous suffering Christ willingly underwent in dying for our sins wrote, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5, NIV).
Mother Teresa said in small acts of kindness there is great love. I think that thought is important to remember as we head into the Christmas season. If you have had a rough year financially and are unemployed, you could easily come to the conclusion you have nothing of value to offer your family, friends or that stranger you meet on the street, who you think wants money from you. Maybe, your family wants you to spend time with them . Perhaps, that stranger is hungering for the gift of you practicing the power of your presence, offering a cup of hot coffee and some of your time.
If you are looking for something special to give that costs only a postage stamp with a Christmas card that can be printed from free images available om the internet, why not offer hand-written letters written on the card? When emails and e-cards flood your in box, a thoughtful letter will stand out. I wouldn’t be surprised if many of those you send letters to save them for the rest of their lives.
Offer a listening ear to someone who is lonely. Senior citizens especially in nursing homes and in hospitals either sick or awaiting transfer to a long-term care home, would be so uplifted by you spending even half an hour of your time with them. Get a group of people together to sing Christmas carols to the elderly in your community. Don’t concern yourself with having the songs you sing be perfect. What is far more important is that you sing with joy from your heart.
What concerns me greatly about focusing on such poverty relief efforts as food hampers and the giving of gifts to impoverished children is that this stops after Christmas. Doing these things is important. The constant daily struggle with poverty wears away at hope. These gifts help to uplift their spirits. Need knows no season.
Through many years of pastoral ministry, social service and advocacy work, I have looked into the many different faces of poverty of all ages. There is no face quite like it. It is a face aged well beyond its years. I have seen a man in his forties living on the street who looks more like he is in his seventies. There is little hope in their eyes. Their faces are etched with the suffering of poverty. Many of the poor are treated with indignity. Many are judged as being somehow deficient because they are poor. It’s too painful for them to hope. When that hope is shattered like a fine glass figurine by the cruelty of others towards them, they may never get it back again. The system that is supposed to help them seems distant to them. Thank God for those in the social service system as well as in community, church and government who care. They believe in offering hands of hope and compassion. They know offering a caring hand up can change people’s lives.
I was shocked when I read in newspaper articles, that people in the province of Ontario are dumpster diving for food. It seemed surreal, but the awful fact is that it’s all too real. Something has gone seriously wrong in our society when people need to do this. No one should ever have to dig through rotting garbage for food. We have the capacity to feed everyone. We have grown more accustomed to hearing about those starving in developing countries. In the news and charity agency ads, we are bombarded with stories of terrible malnutrition. It is too gut-wrenching to see images of children who look more like skeletons. When you read or hear on the news about people starving in your community it has an impact upon you. You ask why it’s happening, and what you can do to be part of the solution to the problem.
We live our 365 day purpose when we are there for people who need us. This Christmas season and throughout 2017, please do all you can to help others.
Enjoy this Christmas season. Don’t strive for a Hallmark perfect Christmas like you see in so many movies where there is the perfect dinner, guests and gifts. It’s a Hollywood fantasy that will have you spending more money and maxing out your credit cards. It’s not worth it. The joy you get will be fleeting and hollow. Then, when the bills come in January the temporary euphoria your spending provided will be gone. In its place will be an ongoing depression as you deal with juggling paying all of your creditors, and are in debt you may never get free of.
Buy only those gifts you can afford. Make gifts like sweaters. Karen is knitting me a beautiful red vest with sparkles in the wool. I wouldn’t be surprised if she received more orders for her knitted creations. A friend of ours has already placed an order for a knitted covering for his bird cage. You never know what will happen when you reach out as Karen has offering a gift, which shows her love for me. Darling, you are the second greatest gift of my life next to the joy of knowing our Lord. We are thankful for family and friends who love us. You are a blessing from God.
While you spend time with family and friends have a lot of fun. Let the inner child in you come alive. In spending too much time focusing on the news of more terror attacks and wondering what the future of our world will be, we lose sight of the plan God has put right in front of our eyes.
Let us all live our 365 day purpose every opportunity we get.
To all the men and women serving in the military overseas, we thank you for your willingness to fight the war against ISIS, and the ongoing threat of terrorism. We think of you as you are away from your family and friends. You are in our thoughts and prayers. You show through your dedication what it means to live a meaningful life. You stand in harm’s way for us. That’s an act of supreme sacrifice we must never forget.
Merry Christmas everyone from Karen and I! We pray you will have a wonderful Christmas, and that in 2017 you and your family will receive God’s richest blessings!
We love you all in the Lord!
Kevin and Karen
Kevin and Karen Osborne are Christian pastoral counsellors and psychotherapists. Kevin is studying to become a chaplain and professor of Psychology specializing in Pastoral Theology. We have started You Can Hope Again Counselling. Karen enjoys doing cross-stitch while I like writing and singing songs. Karen makes me laugh when she sings the kitty bed-time song saying, “It’s that time. It’s the bestest kitty time of the day!” Kevin enjoys teasing the kitties and making them do kitty dances with music. Their kitty, Catherine, loves it when kitty daddeh sings All Things Bright and Beautiful. Kevin likes doing impressions. He tells children’s stories and helps others with their problems using his hand puppet, Dr. Teddy, who is a therapy bear. He is a partner with us in our counselling practice.We are available to assist with worship and preaching to give busy pastors and ministers a much-needed break. We offer in-office, and phone counselling to anyone in the world.
Co-author on Mind’s Seat, a Christian inspirational blog