You have quite a treat as we enter into the Christmas season. Friends from around the world will be giving us a glimpse into spending Christmas overseas. Each have a unique story. Each will touch your heart. Each re-inspires just why you celebrate.
Today’s post is by Roby, a friend who spends most of her Christmases in East Asia. Her son, Matthew, is studying at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee where my oldest daughter, Hannah, and her family live. Matthew is a frequent visitor to Hannah’s home and is one of my grandsons’ favorites.
Pull on a sweater. Roby is about to take you into the crowded streets of East Asia.
“I see a dozen or more a day, just beyond the quiet safety of my city high-rise apartment. Each one offers something unique: a missing leg, blind eyes, a poorly played musical instrument, severe burns. However, they all have within their reach the familiar tin cup for pocket change. Just to walk past them challenges me. What can I do? Even as I toss a little pocket change here and there, dissatisfaction suffocates my heart. I will see them all again tomorrow.
“Late one year as skies were beginning to grey and Siberian winds sang out their familiar howl, my two sons and I were hurrying home in anticipation of steaming hot chocolate. We rushed past all the beggars we knew to get in from the wind. Snuggled in blankets, my husband and I listened to their dreams and wishes for the quickly approaching celebration of the birth of Christ. Each year, it is our tradition to invite folks without family to come and spend the night Christmas Eve. We planned their stockings, the menus, how we would honor and remember our Savior. As details settled, silence filled the air as we all sighed with contended expectation of the joy we would share as family and loved ones.
“It came almost as an unwelcome thought. The pictures of my mind focused on the ancient grey haired woman who helps her ancient blind husband saunter down the tree-lined sidewalks holding out a tin cup. “As you did not do it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did not do it to Me.” My King, whose birth we were about to celebrate, stated it simply and piercingly. This time the conviction was such I could not ignore it. I broke the silent reverie starting a discussion of how we could think beyond ourselves, to minister outside our comfort zone.
“Christmas Eve morning found our breath floating through the air and our bodies jumping up and down to an unheard melody fighting the cold. Our small house church community circled to pray. It had been my son’s idea, “Let’s give all the beggars a fleece blanket-it is cold out.” That was exactly what we were going to do. A blanket with the message of the hope of the gospel to give to everyone we could find.
“That year began a new tradition and a new friendship. When I handed the ancient lady a blanket telling her of God’s love, she smiled at me and my heart melted. After that I would often buy her and her husband a meat filled steamed bun, sitting with them on the curb to share lunch. She spoke with a dialect whose content often eluded me but that did not matter. We would hold hands and smile and talk anyways. Her joy in such harsh circumstances astounded me. After her husband passed, her sorrow increased but her joy never diminished. She, one of the “least of these”, is one of my sweetest Christmas treasures.”