From the desk of…The meaning of Christmas
One of the great blessings of my life is that my officer parents loved the Christ of Christmas. As long as I can remember, I was included in the preparation and declaration of the Christmas season. My dad used to count his officership years in Christmases he had participated in. They loved the kettle season, the raising of monies to help individuals and families in the community. They considered it a privilege to serve others in the name of Christ.
I helped pack bushel baskets of food—turkey, corn, bread, cranberry sauce. It seemed that whatever our family was going to enjoy on Christmas Day was the menu that went into those boxes of Christmas dinners. While it was always fun to be on the packing crew, it was also meaningful to learn that there were those in our neighborhood who would not have a special meal if The Salvation Army did not fill those baskets with wholesome food.
One Christmas Eve in a central Pennsylvania town, there was a knock at our door. We lived next door to the corps building and most people in town knew that this was where the “Major” lived. My father stepped out into the frigid cold and had a conversation with a gentleman who quickly departed. A few minutes later, our whole family went next door to the corps to see if there were any provisions or toys—anything that could fit into a basket. Amazingly, we were able to gather enough food for a family to have a Christmas dinner.
Finding a few toys that had been tucked into the closet, we wrapped them. When we finished putting together this parcel, dad announced that the whole family would be taking a tree, Christmas tree lights and the food to a family down the street from our home. In fact, I had walked past this house for years, going to and from school. I never noticed it. I did not understand the poverty that existed just two blocks from our home. I had no idea that people in our town had so little and were almost invisible.
We walked up to this house and knocked on the door. When my father explained that we were from The Salvation Army, the family invited us in. They asked us to sit down as they set up the Christmas tree and added the lights. After they took the food to the kitchen, we gathered in a circle to say a prayer. We wished the family “Merry Christmas” and returned to the Army wagon. I remember reflecting on the gratefulness of the family. I do not know if that man at our front door was the father of this family or if he was someone who knew that the family needed assistance. Either way, his coming to ask for help was a beautiful catalyst for my own spiritual formation.
What I learned that evening is that the coming of Christ to this world was needed more than ever. I read again the Christmas account to be reminded that Christ came into this world to bring salvation, peace and hope. I also learned that the Salvation Army officers I lived with were people of extraordinary character, people of compassion, who longed to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
(2 Cor. 9:15)