For quite a long time I have had a love/hate relationship with the Christmas season. It is a time I love in theory, for all the lights, nativities, decorations, music and goodwill. What my reality is as a church minister, however, is a time of events, time demands, high expectations, frustrations and exhaustion.
I am always overwhelmed by the sheer generosity of the Australian community who have a strong desire to ensure that people they don’t know and may never meet have a Christmas that is more joyful rather than austere. So many, many toys, gifts and money donations are offered for us to then distribute to those who need a touch of kindness and joy that it can feel quite humbling to be given such responsibility.
The gratitude received from most people who are the benefit of this generosity reminds me that this is reason we do what we do.
For many years I have been blessed to be able to share my Christmas lunch with people who would often be on their own on this special day, or only able to have an ordinary meal rather than the feast that we associate with this celebration. I have shared Christmas lunch with the marginalised in the heart of the city of Melbourne, have taken my family to join with the men in a homeless shelter and I have helped run a lunch following our Christmas Day service at our church.
During our time in Mildura we provided a spit roast Christmas lunch for between 80-120 people. We needed to have 3 shifts of volunteers to help spread the workload among the vast amount of community focussed individuals who wanted to give of their time to help make this meal happen. As people kept ringing during December to ask if they could help us on Christmas Day we began to wonder if we would have more volunteers than lunch guests!
Our goal for this meal was to help those who were attending feel valued and part of a caring community. There was decorations, music, good food, kind smiles, real crockery and cutlery all to help the ‘family’ feel of this event. Our volunteers took this challenge seriously, and came dressed in Christmas themed clothing and were overwhelmingly delighted to be able to demonstrate some compassion and kindness to others in this season of giving.
It is often said that it is better to give than to receive, and this was evident at all these types of Christmas functions I have been a part of. All those who were offering their time to benefit others would declare over and over again how they were the ones who were being blessed by being allowed to give of their time and be a part of this joyful experience.
In the Bible, the apostle Paul shares that it is important to remember the words that, “the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35) While we often associate this with giving physical gifts, the lesson I have learned through these Christmas events is that it is very much a blessing to offer the gift of a very prized resource – that of your time.
There will be plenty of opportunities in your local community to offer the gift of your time this year. Why not reach out to discover how you can be blessed by doing just that this Christmas?