The greatest Christmas experience I have had was the last time Christmas was on a Sunday (1994). I had just begun attending church under my own volition. Like most high school guys, this was a the result of a “cute” girl who invited me to help serve the homeless breakfast on Sunday mornings at 6am. As the semester progressed, however, I decided to start serving and going to the youth group even if the girl was not there. When Christmas rolled around, I realized that the homeless breakfast would still be held though Sunday was also Christmas morning.
In the past (and subsequent Christmas mornings), I would wait patiently at the top of the stairs until the family was ready to see what Santa had brought me. This year, my mother, brother and I decided that we would go to the church and serve breakfast prior to even setting foot into the room with Christmas presents. At the breakfast, not only did we help serve food and hand out the stockings the church had gathered for the homeless, but we also worshipped alongside these men and women.
I do not remember what gifts I received that year, but I do remember handing out warm hats and gloves so others could survive the winter. I don’t remember what I had for Christmas breakfast, but I do remember the hardboiled eggs and sausage we served. I remember the signing carols alongside a homeless man dressed in an awesome grey suit, as I doned a ratty apron. I remember meeting a woman whose Bible was as worn as her hands. I went to help others celebrate Christmas, but on that morning I realized I was the one in need of celebrating a true Christmas.
Seminary is doing strange things to me. Prior to PTS, I thought social justice was a nonessential to the Christian faith, an afterthought, or a sneaky way for “cute” girls to invite high school boys to church. In fact, I became so focused on evangelism, that I thought the message of Jesus Christ’s personal salvation for you was being drowned out by the concerns of the oppressed, the poor, the others.
Recently however, I have realized and been reminded that Jesus’s message of Grace is not only about an eschatological promise (seminary language for “heaven”) but also about earthly promise against injustice. Therefore, I understand people’s frustrations with those “Activist” Christians. But the more aware I am of others, and especially of my role in oppression, I realize that I have to respond.
While I love the presents I have bought for my wife, my family and my friends, this morning I realized that this season gives us a chance to respond. All I want for Christmas is here.