I have discovered my favorite role at the Overflow Shelter. It is serving as the “ride along” person on the bus over to their shelter for the night. I like it because I get to sit with the women and men for a few minutes and actually listen to and talk with them.
So last night I sat with Anthony as we rode to the church. Before the bus pulled out of our parking lot I wished another volunteer I wouldn’t see again until after the Holidays a Merry Christmas. Anthony made the following observation. He said he didn’t understand why there was so much build up for the Holidays- all holidays. Tons of hype and it was just a day that comes and goes. Overrated and a waste in his opinion.
In some ways, deep down I agreed with Anthony. The world builds hype and sets economic expectations that are not very spiritual. And if I’m honest I can certainly remember as a child how much anticipation I felt building up to Christmas. And then that strange feeling about 3:00 in the afternoon of Christmas Day like all that for this? It’s over. No more surprises or nothing else to look forward to. It was like coming down from a sugar high.
But in other ways, I wanted to scream NOOOOOOO to Anthony. So much more is happening here than what the world makes Christmas out to be. But then I felt myself wanting to step up on my soap box and I was pretty sure that would be less than helpful in that moment on the bus. Especially through the eyes of someone who had just about everything he owned on his back and in his pockets.
But it is so much more. If we would just invest as much in our relationships with one another and with Jesus as we do in the Holiday of Christmas then it wouldn’t all be over by 3:00 December 25th. To me that is exactly what it is all about. God invested in a relationship with us through Jesus’ miraculous birth and life with us. That is God’s gift. And yes, it comes with a hefty price tag, actually. But not so much in dollars. It’s an emotional price tag. It’s a spiritual price tag. It’s a relationship and a time price tag. All of which have great value that money can’t really measure.
So I will work on having a better response the next time I have the opportunity to talk with Anthony. And as I feel myself get excited about the presents under the Christmas Tree and the feasts that will be celebrated with family and friends, I will consciously also value time invested in relationships with one another and the actual conversation around the table. I will contemplate anew this strange and amazing gift of God being born into my life and heart again. Because I know that means something that will last long past 3:00 on Christmas Day.
Merry Christmas friends. May you be surrounded by relationships that matter. And if you aren’t, may you figure out how to invest in people in order to create meaning and purpose and community.