Last week our church got a call about whether we would be willing to “adopt” some families for Christmas. The call came in late, was from an area we do not normally serve, and we had already run and completed a successful local “Angel Tree” program. But after much discussion, we decided to offer the invitation and see what transpired.
Two surprising things happened out of that effort. One, I was blown away by the money that came in from parishioners. Although most were too tapped to do the shopping, they were willing to open their wallets. Two, once I got the list, my heart melted. There were basic items, like clothing and shoes. But the “wish list” items got me. There were the cute items – like racecars, baby dolls, musical toys, and card games. Those gifts made me think of the innocence of Christmas gifts when we are young. Then there were the bigger dreamers, who longed for electronic gifts. Though I knew we could not afford them, I remembered stories I had read of homeless persons owning smart phones – in order to “fit in” with everyone else, and to have one form of connection to the world when all other ties had been cut. There was a request by a teenager whose only wish was a gift card to a shop that caters to teens. I suddenly remembered how hard it is to be a teenager, desperately wanting to blend in with your peers, and how hard that would be when parents can barely afford food or rent. And then there was the teenage boy whose only wish was socks and stocking stuffers. His innocent request at such a mature age broke my heart. No greed, just some simple pleasures and a basic need.
When a pregnant Mary visits with her pregnant cousin Elizabeth, Mary breaks into a song of justice for the poor (Luke 1.46-55). When Elizabeth confirms everything the Angel Gabriel had declared about Mary’s baby, Mary sees the beginning of redemption for oppressed peoples everywhere. And she does not just whisper the song to Elizabeth, but shouts it loudly among her people. Christians today still sing her Magnificat, in hundreds of settings and languages, every day, around the world. Though most of us are excited about gifts, parties, and the familiar smells and tastes at Christmas, as Christians, we are also excited for the revolution that Christmas signifies – the dawn of justice for the poor and oppressed. A baby born into poverty who will be the champion of the poor.
Our gifts to our neighbors in need at Christmas are just one small way that we remember the revolution of Christ’s birth. Of course, Christmas is just the beginning. Our witness for Christ is not just about how Christ has redeemed us, but how Christ is using us as agents for change, as advocates for the poor and downtrodden, as servants who “lift up the lowly, and fill the hungry with good things.” Our God of abundance invites us to be a people of abundance. I look forward to hearing how you are celebrating the revolution of Christmas this year!