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Saturday, First Week of Advent

While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”
--Matthew 12:46-48

Giving to the Most Other You Can

On December 25th, 2012, I’m going to have the quintessential American Christmas. I’ll wake up with that boyish, once-a-year sense of anticipation and rush downstairs to exclaim “Merry Christmas!!!” to my parents, brother, and dog, perhaps injuring myself and producing a lot of barking in the process. After a bangin’ waffle breakfast, the five of us (including the dog) will exchange gifts, and then, around when the last bit of wrapping paper hits the floor, my grandma, uncle, aunt, and three to five cousins will pull up in our driveway and spout their cheery holiday greetings. The rest of the day is composed of great food, laughter, card and video games, a crackling fire, and maybe a snowy hike up the Appalachian mountain I live on. This is what Christmas has always looked like for me, and this one, like those before it, is going to be AWESOME.

And yet as much as I’m looking forward to it, I can’t shake the idea that somehow this year’s holiday experience, like those before it, may lack something crucial.

While I’m sitting by the fire, or beating my cousins at Super Smash Bros, how many people are spending Christmas alone? Or hungry? Cold? On the streets? Or feeling lonely and excluded because they don’t celebrate Christmas? These questions sneak into my head every December. How do I honestly reconcile my Yuletide comfort and with the lonely experience of those whom society sees fit to ignore during the most joyous time of the year?

And the truth is that deep down, I can’t reconcile that incongruity. While I cherish all of my holiday memories and don’t believe my Christmases have been misspent, my deepest inner conviction tells me that Christmas is about giving what we have in response to God’s gift, serving others in celebration of our redemption. (I’m not just talking about serving familiar others, but Others, if you get me. Folks you just don’t see yourself interacting with normally. The homeless, for example.) And, incidentally, when we serve others in ways that don’t benefit us whatsoever, that’s when we gain the most. That’s when God is most present in us and in those we serve, and that’s when we encounter Christ, the embodiment of love, most palpably. That’s also when we start being who we truly are—family in the broadest and most universal sense.

This Christmas season, I challenge you (and me) to do something big. I challenge you to engage in some act of kindness you may not immediately be comfortable with. Give away your iPod. Take a week to go serve the poor in a place you’ve never experienced before. Seek out the person you’ve got a nasty beef with and reconcile with him or her in compassion and forgiveness.   Call up an acquaintance who may have difficulty making or keeping friends and talk to him or her for an hour. Maybe someone CAN’T have a good ole American Christmas because their family situation just doesn’t permit it. Invite them to yours. These acts are burdens that become the most meaningful blessings—to ourselves as well as to those whom we’re helping out. This Christmas, and always, God gives us his most precious valuable, his only kid. Let that spirit of giving be stirred up in you and me, in all of us, as we celebrate who God is and strive to understand the appropriate response to his generosity.

-- Charley Allegar '14