Christmas: Bringing Dignity and Joy to People

This past Saturday I had the great privilege of witnessing some makeovers of the heart and mind. After debating whether I was willing to wake up early (I am so not a morning person! :P), I signed up to help with our church’s first ever Christmas pop-up shop. In a nutshell, the church set up a store at a local middle school with toys marked down by 80-90% so that parents who weren’t able to afford to buy their kids presents could do so.

In previous years, our church had asked these families for their wish lists, then bought and delivered the gifts to them. But in doing so, we had inadvertently taken away the parents’ dignity and joy in being able to provide for their children. So this year, as in the words of our fearless leader Christine S., we took something good and made it better.

And boy, was it better! Take a look for yourself. 🙂

Here's one half of the store!

Here’s one part of the store!

At one end of the large room were tables full of legos, princess-y stuff, superhero stuff, clothes, arts and crafts, and the latest fad, kendamas. At the other end was the cashier, followed by several tables with rolls and rolls of wrapping paper and ribbons. Once the parents had purchased their toys, they were able to wrap them up and take them home. Oh, and I forgot to mention they were able to shop in peace because their kids were in another room being fed and entertained. 😉

The best part of the event was seeing the looks on the faces of the parents after they were done shopping. One mom’s beaming smile said it all. She walked out with her arms full of wrapped presents and her head held high. I can still see her in my mind, and the image touches me so much. It was one bit of confirmation that the shop had offered these parents dignity and joy.

A quote on a friend’s Facebook page affirms this:

“When you are referring to serving a community, the words To vs. With, coupled with action, make a huge difference in the impact. ‘To’ creates a lack of the ability for ownership, although intentions may be accepted and received by the community initially. ‘With’ joins forces with community, and impact happens in both the interaction and reaction.” (Kristen B.)

Sure, it might be easier and more convenient to engage the parents from a distance – go out and buy the toys, wrap them and drop them off at their homes – instead of taking the time and effort to set up a store and offering childcare on a Saturday, but coming alongside people and interacting with them is where the magic happens.

The word “with” is what Christmas is all about. God coming to earth and taking the form of a human, a baby no less, in order to engage with mankind. No other belief system has a deity who humbled and inconvenienced himself – out of Love – to make himself more accessible to people. To bring dignity and joy to us through His life, death and resurrection. But Jesus did. That’s why His name is Emmanuel – God with us. And what a beautiful name it is.

On this Christmas Eve, I pray you may experience the wonder of Christmas and remember that, truly, God is with us.

Enjoy this beautiful song, “God with Us”, by All Sons & Daughters and have a Merry Christmas! 🙂

How have you experienced God’s presence in your life?

Getting Christmas Off My Mind (and Into My Heart)

It’s 8 days till Christmas, and I’ve officially gotten into the holiday spirit! In other words, I finally started shopping for gifts and making lists and checking them twice (or thrice – isn’t that a funny word?). I tend to be an organized person and can usually find whatever thing hubby or C misplaced (E’s anal like me, haha), but I don’t normally make to-do lists. Which is why it was very odd for me to actually write one this week. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I turned 40 last month, and the ‘ole brain cells aren’t workin’ as well these days. Or maybe it’s just the result of having too many things to do and too many places to go in such a short amount of time.

Anyone else feel like a chicken about to lose its head? 😛

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Image courtesy of bandrat/freedigitalphotos.net

I was at Target earlier when I heard Christmas music playing overhead, and I had to remind myself, Yes, this is the most wonderful time of the year! But with the way I was rushing around and stressing about all the things I still needed to buy and all the places I still needed to go, I was so not feeling the wonder.

Maybe you’re having a hard time, too.

It might not be the busyness of the season that’s locked up your Christmas spirit; it could be a struggle with finances or loneliness. Maybe it’s a battle with sickness or a broken relationship. It could be the loss of someone you love. Whatever the situation may be, it’s time to remember the Hope of this season. The Hope given to this dark world when God chose to limit Himself to become one of us in order to show us His limitless love.

That’s what I’m going to focus on in the next 8 days. Presents, good food and gatherings are nice and fun. But even after the gifts are unwrapped, the meals are digested and the company is gone, we have the Hope of Jesus to hold on to. And ultimately, it’s this Hope that makes life worth living and celebrating.

Take a listen to Pentatonix’s powerful rendition of “Mary, Did You Know” – it’s sure to get Christmas off your mind and into your heart. 🙂

How do you get into the Christmas spirit?