I awoke at 5:00 Christmas morning feeling a bit down. I was not rising from a “long winter’s nap”, nor was it anything like the crisp cold snowy white Christmas I am accustomed to in the USA, but rather it was a hot, humid, muggy 85˚ South East Asian morning in a $12 hotel. There were no sounds or smells coming from the kitchen of cinnamon rolls, bacon and coffee.
I didn’t hear my grandkids giggling over the holiday music playing in the background, as they awaited the signal that the coast was clear for them to come to the living room where the gifts waited under the tree. To be honest I was having a bit of a pity party. I wiped away my tears and made my way to the Relevant Expeditions compound where dozens of Cambodian children were waiting. As I arrived they saw me and ran toward me hugging me, giggling and smiling beautiful bright smiles of joy and appreciation.
Instantly the reality of the situation hits me square in the face. This IS the meaning of Christmas. It is about sacrifice and sharing. It is giving hope and love to others. It is why Jesus came. To seek and save the lost. I felt God’s presence right beside me with his hand on my shoulder and a smile on his face. “See Jim, this is Christmas.” Different from what you have always known Christmas to be, but it really is more like Christmas than anything you have ever experienced.” Of course I was ashamed of my self pity as I looked around at the children who had never experienced Christmas of any kind.
Christmas has always been about HOPE for me. But honestly my hope as a child and as an adult has often been a sort of selfish hope. One of my great joys as an adult is giving an unexpected gift to someone, something special and memorable. As a child I would HOPE for a toy fire engine, hope for something special, hope for laughter and smiles from others, hope for happiness.
One Christmas I had so hoped for a Pony as we lived on a farm, but we were poor and there was no way r that was going to happen. At 4AM I awoke to see my dad placing 2 saddles near the tree but he put a blanket over them. With my heart racing with excitement I Ran back to my bed and didn’t fall back asleep until we were told a few hours later that we could come downstairs. We opened other gifts found our Christmas socks, fruits and candies. And we were thrilled! But those saddles I saw were not a dream – they were my hopes of what could possibly be waiting to wear those saddles! Then we were told to take off the blanket to see the saddles and were told that my brother had a horse and I had a pony and a friend was keeping them. In that moment all of my hopes and dreams had come true! There was no greater joy, nothing in the world could compare.
Since then Christmas has been about the excitement of those moments of hope. Always before those moments were spent with my family at home, but this year I was with these very poor children, many of whom had never ridden in a car, owned a pair of shoes, and likely only had one shirt to their name.
I realized that many of them have experienced such hardships they can’t even imagine that there might be something else out there to actually HOPE for. Of course we didn’t neglect an opportunity to share with them the ONE TRUE HOPE of the world…and it was truly amazing to see the expectation on their faces as we told them about Jesus.