The tree has been trimmed, the gingerbread house built, the cookies baked. The kids have gathered each morning to hear Scriptures read, preparing our hearts to celebrate Jesus' birth. We walked through Christmas lights, drank hot chocolate, and watched a few Christmas movies.
And with all the family time, the sowing "meaning" into the season, and the avoidance of many things commercially related to Christmas, I sometimes feel like my kids don't get it. Honestly, some days I feel like I am simply going through the motions myself.
Christmas is a celebration of a Savior who has come to redeem us and to give us life, life abundantly. We celebrate because Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through him. We celebrate because he equipped us with everything we need to live out this life in such a way to honor Him.
In celebrating these awesome truths, we are reminded of others who don't have this abundance in life. Christmas serves as a great reminder to share the joy of Jesus with others, and to take our resources, (time, talent, and money) to those who need to experience an abundant life.
Tonight was such a special treat for me. My older two boys and I drove only 15 minutes away, met some friends, and spent the evening at a place called The Malachi House, a home for the terminally ill who would otherwise be spending their last days homeless or in make-shift shelters. This place is a home. It is a home where these precious souls can come and live together during their last days on this earth with dignity.
We gathered in the chapel and sang Christmas carols to a camera that broadcast our voices and faces to each of the residents' rooms. Most were bed ridden. We filed out of the small chapel to individually visit the residents. As we were exiting, I noticed a small book of prayer requests sitting on the table. I confess, I peaked! Don't worry, I didn't thumb through it. I just looked at the open page. I almost wish I hadn't. Written in poor, weak handwriting were some of the residents' prayer requests. There were only 5 written on the page, and 4 of them contained prayers that their family would visit. My heart broke.
Abundance? Did these people know of the abundant life that our Savior came to give to us? Whatever their stories, we found them here, spending their last days not among family, but with strangers, suffering through their last days. And yet, they are just as precious to their Maker as you and I. We walked through the home, visited almost every resident. Some told us about their lives. Some were just so flabbergasted that we all came to visit that they wanted to hear about us...well, about our kids anyways! Some were clearly in their last days, unable to move, unable to speak.
One woman specifically touched my soul with the touch of her hand. She was one of those who didn't have much time left. It was obvious. She was skin and bones, her eyes almost bulging from her face. She couldn't speak. It didn't seem like her eyes could even focus. I wondered, as we were putting our cards and goodies on her table, whether she even knew we were there. Just as we were leaving, her frail hand reached for us. Three of us responded by holding her hand as she struggled to speak. Tears welled up in her eyes, and instantly a realization came to me that we may be the last ones to visit her. We blessed her, told her she was loved, and wished her a Merry Christmas. I do not know her story, I do not know why she was dying. I don't know if she ever knew abundant life. Tonight, we tried to show it the best way we knew how. We left her with gifts, cards, smiles, prayers, and touches.
We have been talking and teaching our kids about the good news of Jesus. We have been telling them about the world's realities and how we are called to serve others just as Jesus served while he was on this earth. Tonight, I didn't do much talking. Tonight, my boys came alongside me. They sang. They passed out cards. They wished these dear souls possibly their last Merry Christmas. We've served before. I've looked for every opportunity to serve alongside of our children. Tonight was different. Tonight they saw loneliness and sickness. And they weren't scared. They were filled with hope. They loved being able to fill these people's rooms with treats and cards. They liked going in to their rooms "like a big party" and talking with them. They want to know when we're going to go back.
I asked the boys what their favorite part of tonight was, and my 4 year old said that he liked meeting people who were going to live with Jesus soon. Wow. We got to visit with people who will be in His presence soon, and my kids were so excited to meet them. My 6 year old said singing "Joy to the World" was his favorite, because he wanted everyone to know that Jesus came and because of it there is joy, no matter what. He wants to know what we can do to make sure people know about our joy before they become this sick. Their hearts are willing, and their flesh isn't yet weak.
Truth be told, I like decorating and baking and snuggling up with just the Christmas lights on, watching a movie with my family. But this year, my favoriate Christmas memory was watching my boys "get" it.