The Christmas season is a time of cheer. A time to give. A time to make others smile. Right?
Okay, for lots of us, it’s a rush through department stores to find the perfect gift. Or, for those who don’t care about the perfect part, frantic shopping on eBay (little Charley doesn’t notice if his “new” high-end plaything has a couple dents and scratches here and there, anyway). It’s a stampede through a zillion websites hoping that you’ll see something that could possibly match your best friend’s personality. It’s a half-dozen phone calls getting transferred to UPS stores all around the globe—just to figure out where a puzzle is that only cost $7.50 in the first place. But, all in all, we know that Christmas isn’t SUPPOSED to be about that, whether or not we “accidently” celebrate it that way. It is about Christ, of course, and since we can’t exactly gift baby Jesus in material ways, sometimes we try to do some sort of good deed. After all, if everything we do unto the “least of these” is done unto Him, it only seems right to reach out to others during the Christmas season.
Operation Christmas Child. World Vision gift catalogs. A church sending a bit extra to the missionary that they support. Volunteers standing in the cold ringing the tiny red bell for Salvation Army. We call it charity and goodwill and giving to the less fortunate. It gives us a sort of nice feel inside. A warm feeling—like you’re a good person; like you’re doing your part. “’Tis the season for giving” everything shouts—from catalogs to church bulletin boards.
Then, at the end of this month, Christmas itself comes…and goes. We’re left with the chore of dragging the tree out back and making the little kids carry armloads of wrapping paper to the trash. Eventually, the vacuum finds the last few pine needles that wait around for bare feet. The thank-you notes arriving from World Vision for the next couple weeks keep you feeling like you did your part to be generous.
The season for giving is over.
Or is it?
Christmas celebrates Jesus Christ’s birth. He came to earth to love us, care for us, teach us…and even die for us. His didn’t offer miracles during the month of December and then decide the rest of the year was time off from doing good. He didn’t break the loaves and pass around the fish and then decide he had done plenty for his fellow man. But we might have volunteered in a soup kitchen for a night or two and then went on for quite a few weeks feeling smug that we had “satisfied the hungry”.
This isn’t what Jesus meant when he told us we are supposed to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for the lame. He never said that this applied during the month of December only.
There is no season for giving. Filling a shoebox with pencils and yo-yos doesn’t get us off the hook for the rest of the year. We, as Christians, need to live our lives in such a way that we give just as much during July as we do in December.
So make someone’s Christmas joyful. Leave a tree on someone’s porch that you know won’t be able to afford one. Or maybe you know an elderly person who just won’t have the energy to go trudging out to a tree farm this year. Volunteer at that soup kitchen. Watch your neighbors’ kids so that they can have a night to stroll some snowy street without having to stuff mittens on little fingers and wipe cold noses. Invite someone to Christmas dinner who has no one to enjoy the day with. Give, so that a child overseas who has never had a real toy can squeal with joy and unwrap their very first gift.
But, when the holidays are over, think of the little bits of joy that you gave people in December. And think how surprised the lady down the street will be when she finds an anonymous gift basket sitting on her front porch on a weekday in January…
McKennaugh Kelley (firstname.lastname@example.org) is seventeen years old. She lives in Troy, Pennsylvania with a handful of crazy, creative, but mostly wonderful little brothers.