Merry Christmas from Atlanta!
May the Natal Christ be present in every gathering, in every quiet moment, and in the deepest, most painful places in your heart.
Christ has come!
We celebrate Christmas (Christ's birth) because of the gift God gave to us. I don't want to forget that in the midst of family celebrations, gifts, and food.
This morning, though, I wondered about what I'd written last year, and found these words:
As we celebrate today, thousands of people in our area are still reeling from the catastrophic tornado less than forty-eight hours ago. The loss of property, catastrophic in its own right, is nothing compared to the loss of life and limb. Not everyone is celebrating the way I will today, with a special meal eaten with those I love.
Not everyone is eating in the place they most love to be.
Wednesday, emergency personnel, many who are volunteers, went door to door, checking to be sure people were safe. It was a horrible kind of head count. Who made it through? Who didn't? At least one of those rescue workers lost his home, yet he was there, doing his job.
For thousands of people across the South, it was a long, hard night.
As the WTVA newscaster reported on the damage in Holly Springs, there was a catch in her voice. "I live in Holly Springs," she said. Her heart was breaking for her town, but she stayed in place. Warning others. Keeping people safe.
There are many people who went above and beyond. We'll hear their stories over the next few days and we'll take heart in the kindness of strangers, the mercies shown in the midst of the tragedy. You and I can be part of the recovery effort. We can be one of the ones who goes above and beyond.
We can be the strangers who show kindness to those in desperate trouble.
Hope Reigns (a Tupelo-based charitable organization) strives to "show the Love of Jesus Christ to disaster victims 48-72 hours after a disaster strikes anywhere in the contiguous 48 states." (I've copied directly from their website to ensure my accuracy.)
"The means to meeting this goal will be through clearing debris, tarping roofs, gutting water damaged homes and salvaging personal property. These are the most basic immediate actions necessary to preserve property and livelihood. In so doing, Hope Reigns volunteers seek to build bonds with home owners, community leaders and other disaster relief organizations for immediate relief and in hope of laying a foundation for future disaster-recovery efforts.
If you are interested in volunteering, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. There will be lots of presents given and received today, but one of the best gifts you can give is a helping hand to one in need. Why not join with us in helping our neighbors recover from the disaster they've experienced?
"The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me." Matthew 25:40 nasb
A lot has changed in a year.
I'm now a peer-to-peer funded missionary with Global Outreach and Eight Days of Hope is a partner with Global Outreach, as well. We're family, in a deeper way than before.
Many of the homes in Holly Springs have been repaired or rebuilt. Many people have begun to heal from the losses they sustained.
But not all.
This year, like every year, there are many hurting, lonely people who wonder if the Christ child in the manger came for them.
He did, and it's our job, body of Christ, to remind them of that great truth.
In the midst of our celebrations, let's make an effort to do just that today. Make a call to a lonely shut-in to say Merry Christmas. Take a plate of food to a shut-in. Invite a single person to join in your celebration. Help serve a meal at a local food pantry or the Salvation Army.
If you're willing, there are plenty of places to serve this afternoon, and there's no more fun act of service than that done with those you love.
This day, let's celebrate the birth of Christ and, as we do, let's live out the truth that He came for the poor, the downtrodden, and the captives, including us.
With wishes for a Merry Christmas and deep gratitude for your support,
In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: The One on Whom God's Favor Rests