The cold, snowy Chicago wind was blowing so hard it almost knocked me into my friend as we got off the church shuttle. A small group of youth and a few of our youth leaders were spending time leading up to Christmas at Pacific Garden Mission at the women’s and children’s refuge.
We were given jobs that night, but I insisted on my job being with the kids who were seeking refuge (after all, the best place to be is with kids). After we got checked in, I and a few others were brought up the stairs to the children’s area. It hit me in the face right away… the reality of how many kids there were needing refuge that night.
“Hi, friends!” I said to a group of little ones who were huddled together around some old toys the refuge had. They looked up at me – some with smiles, some with no expression at all, and some with curiosity. I sat down, crossed my legs, and began to build as many connections in as many ways as I knew how.
The smells were strong, the needs were apparent, and it wasn’t long before little ones were coming in close and I was hearing all about their lives in the ways kids communicate and share. They were fluent in the hard things. They were processing the current holiday season and the reality of their circumstances.
And that’s when it hit me… there is nothing about how the world packages the Christmas season that brought hope to them. For those precious ones, it was just a magnifying glass on the gap between what is and “what should be.”
“Can I tell you one of the best things about Christmas, little friends?” I whispered.
They huddled in, and I proceeded to tell them about the Prince of Peace who came to us … born as a King to poor parents … displaced from His home and born in a place where his crib was a re-purposed feeding trough for animals. Their eyes widened when they heard me talk about this loving King who was not far away from them in understanding their life.
We talked about the shepherds and the angels – the way heaven and earth rejoiced that Hope had come to live among us. We talked about how He grew up and lovingly sacrificed for all people – the rich and poor, the sick and the healed, the ones who recognized Him and the ones who hated Him… all because God made a big promise in the beginning, and He would never fail to keep it.
“THAT’S what Cwis-mas is all about!?” one little girl exclaimed like she had discovered a cover-up.
“Yes… over time, people have made it all about these things like gifts and decorations… but that isn’t good news of great joy for all people, is it?”
“It is for some people…” a little boy muttered.
“Just not for you?” I asked. He looked at me and nodded.
“I’m really sorry, buddy. You’re right. That news isn’t good for all people. I can’t change a lot by myself, but I can tell you that what IS good news for all people is the greatest love and hope the world will ever know. His name is Jesus.”
A lot of seeds were planted that night, but I still think the greatest is what the Holy Spirit planted in my own heart… the way the soil that He tilled and plowed was prepared to be able to receive the seed of sight. A seed of:
- Sight that recognizes with humility that not all kids and not all people are receiving good news during the holiday season.
- Sight that not all nostalgia brings good tidings to people in a variety of circumstances.
- Sight that people need more hope and more love than they need more things or entertainment.
- Sight that the best news for the whole world… with all of its hard stories… is still and only the name of Jesus.
As leaders who are passionate about the discipleship of kids and families, I know how many demands tend to come your direction in this season. I am amazed by your creativity, your excellence, your passion, your dedication… all the ways you have gone above and beyond this season is something I honor and say “Thank you!” for.
But, may I just offer you a momentary space to breathe in Good News for a moment?
Because the best news for those little ones that night – those little ones who had nothing and felt like the season was just a reminder of what they didn’t have- their best news was the name of Jesus.
The best news for the sick alone in hospital rooms this season is the name of Jesus.
The best news for the ones who just experienced betrayal and loss is the name of Jesus.
The best news for the ones who are unsure where their adult children are (physically or spiritually or both) is the name of Jesus.
The best news for the child whose parents are not in the picture anymore is the name of Jesus.
And the best news for you today – however this message finds you – is the name of Jesus.
This is the Name we pin our hopes on. This is the One worth breaking into song for. This is the greatest Wonder worth capturing our hearts and imaginations with. This is the Gift we anticipate and desire and share.
He is the Good News for ALL people.
As you approach this Christmas with your loved ones, my prayer is that we all have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts ready to receive and share the wonder of His love. It is truly the best news for the whole world.
May we join the shepherds in that same spirit of excitement and boldness to fling the news of Hope near and far as we head into a new year!
Much love from our family to yours. Merry Christmas!