Each week my husband and I meet with a group of friends with whom we also attend worship services on Sunday. We meet in each others’ homes. We socialize and snack. We study the Bible, discuss social issues and pray together. We have become a close-knit, loving group of friends who celebrate our joys and draw near one another when we’re hurting.
This week we sought solace in each other and as a group turned to our faith while discussing the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. One couple has a granddaughter who is 6. My husband and I have a 26-year-old daughter who is a third-grade teacher. This tragedy has hit home. We join a nation in mourning. And like one husband admitted: That old 9-11 feeling is back. We are grieving deeply again.
And it’s Christmas time.
In response, most of us are toning it down and dialing it back. We are moderating TV coverage of the event and focusing on our most basic beliefs. We’re lighting our advent candles and reading scripture to remind ourselves of who the baby in a manger became: the most significant man in history. Because of Jesus, history is divided into B.C. (before Christ) and A.D. (in the year of our Lord). Every historical event on every calendar worldwide is dated by how many years it has been since Jesus Christ appeared on earth.
And so our group and millions like us are re-examining what we are told about Jesus. We are reconnecting with Jesus Christ — our source of hope, forgiveness, strength and comfort. We are approaching the very One who days ago lovingly led heroic teachers and precious children to an eternal life that will peacefully continue way beyond this world.
We are also moving our focus away from ourselves and over to those in need, giving a piece of ourselves away for their benefit.
I’m struck by the fact that I recall very few past Christmas gifts, but vividly recall past Christmas adventures with friends and family. Our activities have included watching movies together, playing board games and piecing puzzles, investigating art galleries and used book stores, walking windswept beaches with our pets, baking cookies and sharing them with friends, declaring it “Soup Day!” and spending the afternoon chopping and stirring while the bread machine whirs and churns.
This requires additional planning and adjusting an already busy schedule. Increasing our giving to benefit someone we may or may not know. Giving with a selfless attitude, asking for no reward or attention but anticipating the personal gifts of joy and contentment when we do. With some prayer, Scripture promises that God will guide our efforts and gift us with eternal insight and hope, peace and cheer -— things we long for this Christmas.
There are elderly residents in our nursing home communities who will go without visitors this Christmas. Parents who fear they will have little or nothing to give their children, much less special ingredients to bake cookies or prepare special foods for a Christmas meal. Mr. Rogers told us what to do in times of crisis: look for the helpers. I suggest we become those helpers. The path to some peace this Christmas is laid out before us.