For a number of years now, Fred and I have hosted a Christmas meal for a dozen or so people on Christmas Day at New Life Community Church. Our guests are folks from the Wednesday Lunch Club who would be otherwise alone on Christmas Day. Regular volunteers who would also be alone that day help prepare the meal and clean up.
Whenever anyone asks me how I spend Christmas Day and hears about this, they think it’s a lovely idea, and I do too. But I always forget how much work it is and how easily I get stressed out when something unexpected happens.
This year I was blindsided by nine (I counted them) eventualities that nearly put me over the edge–including the security alarm going off twice, no heat and a new thermostat without instructions, and a last-minute delivery of eight boxes of fresh food. Except for the ten minutes, I sat down to eat my meal–which was incredibly delicious–I was not able to relax and enjoy myself. It saddened me that I wasn’t the only one who went home exhausted and re-thinking how and why we do this.
So don’t believe me if I tell you Christmas was fine this year. We loved spending Christmas Eve with our daughter and her family, but Christmas day was a bust, and I didn’t sleep well that night.
On the Feast of Stephen (aka Boxing Day), Fred and I slept in. We read a story a friend wrote during Advent and talked about it on the way to an open house where I received much sympathy for what happened the day before. Afterwards, we strolled along the Fraser River. Then Fred had a nap and I went back to the church to put a few things away. While I did, I had a good visit with a friend who’d had a difficult Christmas.
Back home, I got out a bottle of wine, lit the Advent and Christmas candles, put on Steve Bell’s Keening for the Dawn, and Fred and I sat down to reheated turkey dinner leftovers. The meal was just as delicious as it had been the day before.
And that’s how we celebrated our Saviour’s birth.
This is my little town,
And here, if anywhere,
My Christ Child
Will be born.
— from “Housekeeper” by Elizabeth Rooney
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If your Bethlehem is like mine, you’ve seen cold, wet folks with cardboard signs asking for help. A friend put me on to a great idea. Carry a few pairs of socks to give away. Tuck inside them anything you want: a soft granola bar, a favourite poem, a gift card, or chocolate. Then give them to people who need them. The next time you put on a fresh pair of socks, you’ll remember someone else who got to do the very same thing.