Do you wonder what Christmas is all about sometimes? Other than a pile of self-indulgent gifts, high-caloric intake and a credit card bill to choke on in January, I mean?
I’m about to tell you.
Recently, my husband collected our oldest daughter from school for Christmas vacation. As they were leaving her place, they noticed an unfamiliar duffle bag on the front steps and wondered to whom it belonged.
Just a couple of minutes after entering the highway, they drew up behind a transport vehicle and in the distance, noticed a young man on a bicycle entering the lane and driving towards the truck. The truck changed lanes to avoid him. But the fellow matched the truck’s movements and though the truck driver tried to avoid hitting him without losing control himself, it was impossible to miss him completely. They collided and the boy flew through the air, pieces of his bicycle flying with him.
My husband pulled over and he threw his phone at my daughter yelling, “call 911!” He scrambled out and found the boy curled up on the ground, bloody but conscious. My husband peeled off his sweater and put it under the boy’s head, who was fighting to get up. My husband tried to keep him still.
The boy gave his name and said, “I’m homeless, nobody loves me and I want to die.”
Within minutes, an off-duty Mountie arrived and took charge. My husband waited for at least a half hour to give a statement. They watched the ambulance come and go and then called me to explain why they would be late.
By the time they got home, I was full of questions. So close to Christmas, my middle-class hustle and bustle was interrupted by the words of this young man barely out of his teens. I’m homeless, nobody loves me, and I want to die.
My life seemed so easy and my problems shallow by comparison.
I tried to imagine what winter (never mind Christmas) was like for someone who had no home and no family, at least none that were in a position to help him.
The next day, my husband called the home where our daughter stays (close relatives of ours) to relate the story. “Guess what happened to me on the drive home yesterday?” he said.
My husband had no idea that he was the bearer of bad tidings. Our relatives were waiting to hear news about a missing friend who had dropped all his worldly possessions on the front step the day before and wasn’t answering his phone.
Our relatives visited the boy in the hospital with trepidation, expecting to see him in grave condition, but instead, they were privileged to witness a Christmas miracle.
His only injuries were a cracked wrist, some bad bruises, and some missing teeth. No internal injuries, no broken bones.
Shall I repeat that for you?
Not even the cliché, “you look like you’ve been hit by a truck,” applies in this instance.
When we learned this, we marveled how someone could try to throw his life away for reasons of his own and still survive. Could he ever convince himself again that there was no purpose to his life? We supposed it was possible, but from our spiritual paradigm, it seemed unthinkable.
I also thought about how those tender years from infancy through adolescence are like snowballs. Without lots of fresh, packable snow under the right conditions, you just can’t get a good roll going.
This boy did not experience the right conditions. He couch-surfed for most of his adolescence and had no roots. Sometimes he had a place to stay, sometimes he didn’t. Now, at the time kids are usually off to college and searching for their place in the world, he is still trying to find a place to sleep.
Two nights before the highway incident he was looking for that place at a homeless shelter, but they were full. He spent the next two December nights under a bridge, cold and hungry. Then, in a moment of desperation, he decided that he would rather end it all on a highway instead of starving to death.
After several days at the hospital, our relatives decided to bring him home with them for Christmas. And I cried, because I have never been so generous, for all my spiritual talk.
They reasoned that he had nowhere else to go, and nothing else could be done for him until the holidays were over, anyway. The ball would get rolling in a few days, but until then…
So this is what Christmas—and the Christian life—is all about. Showing love to someone whom God has undeniably placed in your path.
We donate turkeys and buy meals for the homeless and supply goats for families in Africa—and all of that is great—but sometimes what people need is our presence. Sometimes it’s not about writing a cheque. The true work of the Kingdom of God is our willingness to share our lives.
At Christmas, we celebrate the idea that Jesus came into the world to rescue us from sin and thereby restoring our relationship with God the Father. If this idea has any merit at all, it should manifest itself in how we try to restore the lives of others.
Psalm 68:6…God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing.