Our family has a pretty regimented Christmas routine: we make some hot apple cider, put on some Christmas music by Loreena McKennitt and Sting, decorate the tree, and then follow everything up with Swiss Chalet festive specials and a viewing of the film A Christmas Story.
The repetition of this tradition helps our family to remember that we have one another; and that God has given us what we need and enjoy together as a family.
One Christmas in particular though, we invited a friend of ours to join us for this annual tradition. We’ll call him Carter. Carter was quite regularly homeless and transient. One year, he found himself moving between 3 different Canadian cities all within the course of a year. Carter had a hard time holding down housing and was constantly unemployed due to various mental health and poverty issues that he constantly faced.
When Carter showed up at our door, he brought gifts: a photography magazine for Michele (my wife loves photography), some toy cars for our children, and some tea for us to enjoy. Needless to say, Carter didn’t have a huge income, and the fact he thought to bring Christmas gifts was amazing. I was instantly reminded of the widow who gave her last two pennies to the Temple in Mark 12: 41-44. Sometimes, those of us who have less give the most generously.
As I drove Carter home after all of the festivities, he said to me, “I’ve lived in this city for 3 years, and no one has ever invited me into their home.”
Just when you think Christmas is the happiest time of the year for our culture, for many people, it will be the loneliest. A recent article in Psychology Today gives 5 main reasons why people will often be depressed at Christmas time:
- The excessive commercialization of Christmas
- Excessive self-reflection and rumination about the inadequacies of life
- The pressure to spend a lot of money on gifts and incur increasing debt
- The expectation for social gatherings with family, friends and acquaintances that they’d rather not spend time with
- The loss of loved ones or jobs
For Michele and I, our hope was that a simple act of hospitality might help make a difference for even just one person at the most loneliest time of the year. We had been given much. What could we now give?
The trick however was that this wasn’t just a gift for Carter. We, as a family, also needed to see a renewed sense of significance and joy to Christmas. What was Christmas for exactly?
In Carter’s loneliness, we saw the reflection of our own loneliness that we hide with material goods and money. And for that Christmas, we were several lonely people who came together to remember that we have one another; and that God has given us what we need and enjoy together as a family.
Who might you extend hospitality to this Christmas? Who is that person in your life who could use some good news? What’s that Christmas tradition you enjoy each year that for just once you might include someone else? You might be surprised at the gift you receive in doing so.