And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given… Isaiah 9:6
Luke goes on to tell us that this humble birth was first announced to shepherds in the field by an angel and then an entire host of angels. Surely this excitement and wonder spread quickly to a wide range of adults and children. As I reflect on this story and the diverse cast of characters, I think of my childhood Christmases. We were an unpolished bunch affected by poverty, substance abuse, and some of the serious issues that many in our community face today. While not all of my childhood memories are positive, Christmas was a time of hope and anticipation. It was a predictable time that involved church, familiar hymns, special meals, and giving.
Our K-mart tree came out of the attic every year sans a few branches, and we decorated it with colored lights and homemade ornaments. I never knew who would show up for the Christmas meal, but all were welcome. My mother saved all year to buy modest gifts for her four girls. But what I remember most was what she taught us about giving.
We bought gifts for the kids who sold papers on the street corner and we delivered gifts and food to families in need. Truth is, we could have been on the receiving end, but we loved sharing our simple gifts. A heavenly host did not reveal the Christ child to me. Rather, Christ revealed himself to me in the humble preparations and simple gifts each year. I am still struck by the excitement of the season and filled with hope and anticipation of what is to come.
Prayer: Dear God, you chose an unlikely couple to bear your son; and you chose us to be your family despite our flaws, so that we might share this amazing love with others. Help us remember that each gift and act of kindness reflects Christ in us and brings hope to a troubled world. Amen.
About the Contributor
Jennifer Parker is a Professor of Psychology and Executive Director of the Child Protection Training Center at USC Upstate. She serves as an Elder and is the upcoming chair of the Local Missions Committee. Jennifer is married to Steve; and they have Ginger, Bryan, Taylor, and Damien.