Monday, December 16, 2013
I turned the corner and saw him. An overstuffed duffle bag and his large four-legged companion sat at his feet, all shouting "weary". He pulled a bottle from his back pack and took a swig. My heart sank as I watched him carefully tighten the lid on what appeared to be vodka or some other clear liquid "spirit". He couldn't have been more than 25, and I guessed that his journey on the streets was a new one. I wanted so badly to pull over and speak with him, and offer help of some kind. But my years of playing it safe flashed multiple warning signs, "Don't approach him alone." Yet I can't get him off my mind. I'm praying for him, but that seems so inadequate and a bit trite when he clearly needs help...tangible help. What am I to do? How am I to respond -- to hurt and pain and emptiness around me, especially this time of year? If I sit in my own cozy winter wonderland, sipping my fancy coffee and gazing at the tree all lit up and sparkling, am I getting it? If the warm glow from the fireplace mingled with holiday music and gingerbread baking in the oven is my Christmas experience, do I really know? If the gifts wrapped under the tree and stockings waiting to be filled are my source of joy and my definition of giving, do I truly experience it? If it's all about those faces I love and the feast planned for dinner, am I living what I claim to believe? And I have to ask myself, are these the vignettes I'd see Jesus in? There's nothing wrong with any of these holiday traditions. In fact, I believe God wants us to rejoice and celebrate the birth of Christ. But if these pastimes are the essence of my Christmas, I think I've missed the boat. Where would Jesus be this Christmas season? I can look at His birth and proceed with His life to get an idea. Born in a stable under the stars, in the presence of animals and angels. Looking at His life, I see a man who moved from one person's mess to another's. Touching, healing, delivering, teaching. Would He live any differently today? When I look at His life, I don't see a man clinging to His loved ones, creating a Thomas Kinkade painting in His daily round. Oh, He brought light. But His was the real deal, not an illusion of light on a canvas. I want the tree, the stockings the gifts, the carols and the scents of the holiday. And I long to be surrounded by those faces I love most. But if my vision of Christmas stops there, I'm way too near-sighted. Christmas is about heaven come down to earth in the form of a tiny baby. But it's also about the man He grew up to be, the life He lived, and the death He died. He was the greatest gift this world has ever seen. May I never forget, and may I live out this Christmas, the Gospel message to a hurting world. One thing I'm sure of ~ Jesus would have stopped, looked that young homeless man in the eyes, and offered Himself. Lord, teach me to do the same.